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CslO 1530. Z 

INttwc^ College Ifiitarp 
















S. K. HUTTOl^M.B., Ch.B. Vict. 







w - 


^ (jM^iii. 

<, /U^^^'-i^^'tA 


Printed by BALLAirrm, Hambov 6* Co. 
At the Ballantyne Pren, Edxnbaifrh 


mr WIFE 


The author would like to express his obligation 
to Dr. Wilfrid T. Grenfell for the use of the 
large map at end of this book. 

OeUbar 1911. 


Hj naigbbour the Eskimo 21*24 


KiUinek — NMrisg KiUinek— BiUmofl on bowrd— The ttepping- 
•tonee— Tent life— 4now honsee— The Iglo— Old TuglaW— The 
tioablee of a photographer — Superstitions — The old woman of 
the sea — ^The happj hunting grounds 25-46 


Fint sight of Labrador— Airital at Okak ...... 46-4»4 


The freedng of the sea— Sealskin clothes and boots — ^Winter cold — 

The home-ooming 55-^ 

LifetleJohn 66-76 

An Eskimo wedding-— Home lif e . 76-86 


Choosing names — Eskimo childhood — Dolls — Sledges and dogs — 

Panting on the ice — The little hnnter—In school . . 87-100 


Birthdays — ^A hard-working people — Joshua the iyory career — 

Clothing and cleanliness Old age 101-113 








"'Old Rnth in her Best Dress Frontispiece 

^^Labrador 20 

A Labrador Iceberg 22 

A Group of Killinek Eskimos 28 

Old Tnglavi's Iglo 40 

*The Sea Front at Okak 48 

Ramah 48 

nSskimo Faces 52 

"A Fishing Camp 60 

*^The Author^ Home from a Winter Walk . . . . 60 

*^An Eskimo Nursemaid 82 

'^The Baby's Nest 82 

The Eskimo B07 96 

The Eskimo Pocket 108 

On the Way to Church 108 

"^An Old Woman Fishing 110 

""^An Eddmo Woman Scraping a Sealskin .110 

'^Walrus Tusks and Ivory Carvings 124 

" Found in Heathen Graves 124 

"^An Interesting Event 138 

^Dogs Fishing 150 

^My Drivers 156 

Gesh6, an Eskimo Sledge Dog 156 

Julius and a Snow House 164 

xvii % 







Th^ Tired Dogs 174 

''The Unwilling Puppy 188 

^A Sledge Parly 188 

^The Author in Trayelling Costume 192 

^Seal Hunters 210 

^An Eskimo with his Kajak 222 

^Home fix>m the Hunt 250 

Vinter Fishing 230 

TThe Spring Flitting 242 

'Hie Breaking Ice 248 

-Tent Life 254 

""Maria 270 

^Okak Hospital 270 

^An Eskimo Great-Grandmother 284 

"An Eskimo Woman from Nachvak 294 

''Okl Iglos at Hebron 308 

"An Elaborate Snow Porch 814 

^An Eskimo Boat Builder 382 

Jerry, Organist and Bandmaster at Okak .... 382 

The Eskimo Schoolmaster 836 



•Button Mands 






f The Eskimos 

THIS book presents a plain picture of the 
Eskimos of Labrador, a people among whom 
I have lived for some years past, and with whom I 
have come into the closest contact ; in their homes, 
in their work, in their hunting and their journeys, 
in sickness and in health. I called them my 
neighbours, not only because they lived close by, 
but because they showed kindness to me; and I 
have pictured them as I found them, a kindly and 
hospitable folk, quick to anger and quick to forgive, 
whose outlook on life, whose thoughts and ways of 
reasoning, differ strangely from our own. 

The land they live in is a contrast to ours. Can 
we imagine a wider difference than that between 
England — the smiling ''merrie England" that the 
poets love to sing — ^and the bleak, rock-bound coast 
which is the home of my neighbour the Eskimo? 
We speak of Labrador as a cotmtry, but, if truth 
be told, we only know it as a coast To the 
Eskimos it is very little more. Their home is by 

the water's edge: they gain their living from the 



sea. Fishing, sealing, and walrus-hunting are their 
staple pursuits; their knowledge of the land itself 
is limited to the few miles they tramp to their fox- 
' traps, and the longer journeys that they make in 
the spring on the tracks of the reindeer. They 
tell of a vast rolling wilderness behind the rocky 
heights that front the sea ; of untold miles of crisp 
moss upon which no man has ever trodden. Their 
words bring up an awesome pictiue of a bare and 
desolate waste, silent but for the twittering of birds 
and the dismal howling of the hungry wolf, or the 
even more dismal howling of the wind. An un- 
known landl With nothing to tempt the seeker 
for wealth, and little to attract the hardy explorer, 
it remains, year after year, wrapped in its awful 
solitude. The footsteps of pioneers have already 
crossed the wilderness, but behind the rocky height 
of the Eskimo Labrador the solitude remains. 

Here and there along the coast line of this lonely 
land are little clusters of huts and tents, and in 
them dwell the people who have made it their home 
— the Innuit race, ** the People," as they call them- 
selves, better known as the Eskimos. 

How they came to the land is a matter for con- 
jecture. A study of their features and habits and 
language brings me to the conclusion that they are 
physically allied to the Mongols of Asia; they areK 
obviously identical with the Eskimos of GreenlandA 
and closely related to those of Alaska. 

And so it seems likely that in bygone times 
their forefathers dwelt upon the Siberian coasL 
Perhaps their adventurous spirit drove them forth» 
perhaps tribal warfare made them fly for their lives ; 
however that may have been, it seems that they 

/ ^ 

Labkador : A View westwakd, nbak Okak 
Bvc bUck tacia, windina fiordi, bold beicbu uid hendluidi, a pore md bnci 
tbe pcrfeclion of the ibart lamnin. ■baandLag in anbeuable iwHrmK. 

A Lahrador Icebkr( 

icse Lnbcm pu»eB tlic cwul ID 
1 impobible to rvKlilc the huge 


launched their skin canoes and square-^nded umiaks 
(or women's hoats), and crossed the perilous waters 
of what we know as Behring's Strait. They 
found fish and seals along the Alaskan coast, and 
some were well content to settle there. Others 
fSured further, slowly wandering along the Norths 
West Passage before ever the civilised world dreamt 
of its existence. Some reached Greenland; some 
came southward to Labrador; wherever they saw 
seals in plenty, there they stayed until their roving 
spirit drove them on. And so it seems to have 
come about that in Alaska, in Baffin's Land, in 
Greenland and Labrador, there are Eskimos, wide 
apart as miles go, but close together in i^ech and 
ways of living. We do not know whether the 
North- West Passage holds any proof of this long- 
ago migration ; its shores are barren and unexplored ; 
but probably upon this or that rocky promontory 
could be found the typical burying-places of the 
heathen Eskimos. 

But I must bring my story into the bounds of 
modem times. To write of the Eskimos as they 
were in bygone days would be a fascinating thing, 
but it would mean building upon a slender foun- 
dation. No, the past of the Eskimo people must 
always remain something of a mystery. They have 
no written records: they are a nation without a 
history I 

It is not very many years since civilization 

reached them ; and so as I wandered among the hills 

of Labrador I found flint weapons and soft stone 

cooking-pots beside graves whose bones had not yet 

returned to dust. Armed with their flint-tipped 

arrows they hunted the bear and the reindeer; 



balanced in tiny skin canoes they followed the seal 
and the walrus, with flint harpoon ready to hand ; 
they looked after the needs of their bodies, and that 
was all. They superstitiously dreaded some vague 
and malignant Power ; they paid tribute to the men 
who were supposed to live in league with this 
Being; they lived their hopeless life and passed 
away into the dark. Generation followed generation 
in the same dismal course : they made no progress. 
It was to this people that the missionaries of the 
Moravian Church came in the year 1771, bringing the 
good news of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, 
and bringing a power into the hearts of the Eskimos 
that has elevated them to a life of hope and progress, 
and made them law-abiding. Christian citizens. 

The nearest glimpse we can get of the Eskimos 
as they were in olden times, is among that tribe 
which has settled at Killinek, the northernmost tip 
of Labrador. I have thought it well, therefore, to 
write first of them, and then to turn back to my old 
home at Okak, and write of the Eskimos as I knew 
them so well — a people bom and brought up in 
Christian villages, and living the life which God 
intended them to live on their bare and inhospitable 
coast, unspoiled by that darker side which so often 
shows uppermost when civilization reaches nature 



Nearino Eillinck — Eskimos on Board — My Guide — The Step* 
PING Stones — ^Tent Lif&— Snow Houses— The Iglo — Old 
TuGLAvi — ^The Troubles of a Photographer — Superstitions 
— ^The Old Woman of the Sea — ^The Happy Hunting 
Grounds — Leaving Kilunek 

IT was a sunny September morning in 1908. I 
stood on the deck of the little Mission ship 
Harmony^ watching the bare black rocks of the 
northernmost Labrador. I was going to see Killinek, 
one of the loneliest Mission stations in the world. 
The scenery was terribly bleak, in spite of the sun- 
shme, and I thought to myself, ''What an unpromising 
place 1 Nothing to see but rocks and water ! " On the 
one hand the restless Atlantic, broken here and there 
by tiny islets, mere jagged rocks sticking out of the 
water, and half buried in foam ; on the other hand a 
line of dull coast rising steeply from the sea ; a rugged 
line of black, only relieved by the scattered patches 
of grey where the moss had found a hold, and by 
the streaks of rusty iron ore and the glint of falling 
water. It was a picture of utter desolation, and yet 
I knew that somewhere among those rocks an Eskimo 
village nestled ; those rocks, to me no more than a 
picture of barren grandeur, had a different look to 
Eskimo eyes. They brought visions of seals and 
walrus, of fat codfish eager to be taken, of shy birds 

trapped on their flight to more promising places; 



dreams, in fact, of plenty; and that was why this 
tribe of wanderibQg hunters settled in KiUinek. 

The stout little vessel fought her Way through the 
awkward currents of Gray's Straits : there were two 
men clinging to the wheel, steadying the ship as she 
danced and throbbed, and the water was all broken 
by little whirlpools on which the sea-birds feared to 
settle. But this was the way to KiUinek; and 
presently we caught a glimpse of the village through 
a rift in the line of rocks. A flag fluttered up as we 
passed, and little pufis of smoke among the Eskimo 
tents showed us that the people were firing guns to 
welcome the ship, tt seemed only a tiny point of 
life in the most desolate land imaginable, but it 
brightened us up ; and when the rocks hid it from us 
as we passed on towards the harbour mouth, we felt 
as if the sunshine had gone. 

We turned into a narrow, deep channel, plenti- 
fully sprinkled with buoys and marks, and dropped 
anchor in sight of the Mission station. We were at 
once surrounded by a swarm of skin canoes, each 
paddled by a smiling, brown-faced Eskimo. Boats, 
crowded with women, and with the water all but 
pouring in, flopped about, waiting for a chance to 
come alongside; and almost as soon as the anchor 
had found the bottom the deck was crowded. The 
folks jostled one another, and peered into our faces. 
'* Aksunai, aksunai," they said; *' welcome I be strong." 
Those of us who knew how to talk started chatting 
right away ; the less favoured contented themselves 
with handshakes and grins, and shouts of ** Hooks- 
and-eyes " or " Auctioneer," a parody of " Aksunai,*' 
at which the Eskimos laughed uproariously. The 

cook's gaUey was besi^fed : here was something new. 



'^ Ai-ai's " of astonishment greeted the mystery of 
potato peeling. The ship's cat caused quite a stampede, 
to its own tremendous alarm. It bounded up the / 
rigging like a streak, amid a chorus of ** Sun& un4 " 
(what's that) ?— " Kapp§^ " (what an awful thing) 1 
There it sat palpitating, with hair all bristling, while 
some one who had seen a cat before told his excited 
fijends that this was ** Poosee-kuU&k " (poor little 
pussy) I 

But this was no time for dawdling ; here was a 
fine day going, with work waiting to be done. The 
mate's voice called for hatches off, and everybody 
volunteered for work. The event of the year, the 
unloading of the ship, had begun. 

I went ashore to explore the village. It was no 
easy matter to get a guide, because everybody was 
busy on the ship or on the landing-stage; but I 
finally managed to button-hole a middle-aged man 
(only he had no button-holes, nor yet buttons, 
because he wore the characteristic Eskimo ** attigdk " 
or ** dicky "), who spent all his spare time in leading 
me aroimd and showing me the sights. We climbed 
the hill behind the village, so that I might get some 
idea of the scenery. Like a true Eskimo he trotted 
up at about five miles an hour, while I panted and 
stumbled behind him in a partly successfiil attempt 
to keep him in sight. 

From the top of the hill we saw the snow-capped 
heights of inland Labrador, and on the seaward 
horizon the long chain of flat islands which we call 
the " Buttons." 

Bob, or Baab, as he called himself, grew com- 

<' Those are the Tutiat," he said. 



"Tutjat," I thought, "the Stepping Stones"; 
and there, flashed through my mind the old storjr 
that the Eskimos tell, how their forefathers visited 
the Innuit of the Far North long, long ago. 

They came along the coast, so runs the story, 
to KiUinek — ^the End, or Limit, as the meaning of 
the word is — and crossed Gray's Strait in their skin 
canoes. They travelled from one to the other of the 
long chain of islands as they journeyed northward, 
and called them Tutjat or Stepping Stones as a 

It struck me that the name is a proof of the 
truth of the old tale. The name remains, but the 
story is half forgotten. 

Sometimes in an evening, when pipes are lit 
and tongues are loosed, the Eskimos will talk of 
those old times. They will tell how their ancestors 
made this marvellous journey, and found a people 
across the sea whose words they could understand : 
Eskimos they were, and only different from the 
Innuit of Labrador because they had lived apart 
so long. 

And as we looked at the Button Islands, Bob 

had a feur-away look in his restless eyes. He ran 

his Angers through his tumbled hair ; his face grew 

eager ; he waved his pipe towards the north. ** Yes," 

he said, " those are the Tutjat ; those are the Tutjat. 

I went there last autumn, and found plenty of seals. 

I got a big walrus : I went after him in my kajak 

(skin canoe), and I harpooned him. I chose him 

because he was big : he had such fine tusks to make 

new harpoons, and his skin was good and thick and 

strong, and I wanted a new whip for the dogs. 

Yes, those are the Tutjat, and I have been there. 


A Group of Kilunbk Eskimos 

lin nunJf In'ma- buli'ud tuu.'wilhout fini, cheerfully cnduiinti 


I shall go again some day, for I think I shall catch 
a white bear, and his skin is fine and warm. It is 
only seldom that we can go to the Tutjat, for the 
tide is very strong against our kajaks, and it is far. 
But I will go to the farthest of the Tutjat, where 
we can sometimes see Tutjarluk/' 

Tutj&rluk I Another link in the old chain I 

From the farthest of the Button Islands, or 
Stepping Stones, they can sometimes see Tutj4rluk, 
" the Big Stepping Stone." 

There it is, away in the haze, a blue-grey patch 
where sky and sea meet ; Resolution Island, ** the 
Big Stepping Stone " of the old Eskimo story. The 
link is perfect, for from Resolution Island it is 
but a step to Baffin's Land. 

It was fine to see the enthusiasm in Bob's ruddy 
Eskimo face as he thought of that white bear hunt 
which was awaiting him among the Tutjat ; but he 
had said his say ; he smoothed his mop of coal-black 
hair with his broad, plump hand, and with his pipe 
between his teeth he turned to lead me to the village. 

" Where do you live ? " I asked him. 

He pointed along a winding stony path to a 
smoke-blackened calico tent. ** Tuppiga " (my tent), 
he said, and trotted amiably on. The tent was no 
more than a bunch of poles with a calico cover 
thrown over them; the poles stuck out through a 
hole in the top, and the cover was kept in place by 
big stones laid upon its edge. The ground was too 
rocky for tent-pegs, and doubtless stones were the 
next best thing ; but I thought with a shiver of the 
probable fate of the tent on some wild autumn night. 

" Does your tent never blow over ? " I said. 

He laughed. ** Oh yes, it sometimes blows over 



when the wmd is strong ; but k%ifanna (never mind), 
what does it matter? we can soon crawl out and 
set it on its poles again and it is all right The 
stones do not blow away; they stay there all the 
time. When the winter comes, and we find snow to 
build snow houses, we leave the stones lying till we 
can come again in the spring. I always put my 
tent in the same place, for it is a good place. That 
big rock shelters us from the north-west wind, and 
we can drink from that stream of water near by; 
besides, we are close to the sea, and I can soon launch 
my skin canoe and go hunting the seals. Yes, it is 
a good place, and I shall come again next year. 
Some of the people do not find good places ; they go 
to fresh places each year ; but my place is good." 

His face was aglow again and I caught some of 
his emotion ; I felt the glamour of his simple life. 
I thought of the many times when I have come 
across the rings of stones, relics of deserted tenting- 
places. They are generally in some grassy nook 
near the seashore. The rank grass grows over and 
among them, and the sandy space which they surround 
is strewn with fishbones and shells and all the other 
litter of Eskimo tent life. There is an air of desola- 
tion about these rings of stones. Their owners have 
sought better places for their tents ; they have had 
no fortune at the fishing and have gone to try 
elsewhere; perhaps they have passed away and are 

Bob stood for a moment deep in thought and 

gently smiling. He was dreaming of bygone 

tenting times ; he was seeing visions of rare hauls of 

seals and fish for the future ; but his restless eyes 

lit on his tent again and he trotted on. 



We came upon a little girl squatting on the 
^fround, solemnly stirring the contents of a big black 
cooking-pot which stood upon a rough fireplace of 
stones. She fed the fire with bits of brushwood and 
** shooed" the hungry dogs away. She looked up 
shyly as we passed, and I saw the family likeness at 
once. She had the same tumbled mop of black hair, 
the tame little twinkling eyes, the same small nose 
and plump ruddy cheeks, the same expression of 
face, as her father. The sound of our footsteps 
brought three or four other small folks scrambling 
out of the tent, each one a repetition of the oth^*s on 
a different scale. They joined hands and stood in 
a row, gating with awestruck eyes at the stranger. 
This was evidently part of Bob's family, and a 
curious-looking lot they were. It was quite obvious 
that the rule of inheritance was observed in these 
youngsters' clothing. The trousers which adorned 
the bigger boy were evidently Bob's, patched and 
puckered to tlie required size; one little girl had 
a woman's skirt on, all the way up, which gave her 
quite a picturesque appearance; they all seemed 
to be wearing somebody else's boots. And quite 
right, too, I thought. They are scrambling over 
the rocks all day long, romping with the dogs 
and getting their clothes torn and muddied and 
soaked ; so I rather admired the wisdom of their 
mother in dressing them up anyhow for their play. 
The children seemed quite content to stare until 
further orders : they only grunted when I said 
** Aksunai," though a grunt in Eskimo is quite poUte ; 
so I took a peep into the tent. 

The half furthest from the door was evidently 

the sleeping-place, for it was occupied by a sort of 



platform of moss and earth spread with skins. The 
mother was sitting on the edge of the bed, kneading 
one of her husband's boots. She looked up as we 
appeared, with a good-humoured smile on her hand- 
some ruddy face, and quietly went on with her 

Other boots, turned inside out to dry, hung from 
the poles above her head ; they were waiting to be 
rubbed. This is one of the things that an Eskimo 
expects of his wife ; she must keep his boots soft 4 
and you can well imagine the hunter coming in 
tired from his latest expedition, sprawling with loud 
snores upon the platform bed, while his wife takes 
his boots and turns them inside out to dry, and 
patiently rubs them supple, ready for his next excur- 
sion. Eskimo hunters take a pride in .their boots. 

Bob's wife reached for another boot, and went 
on with her kneading. 

Close beside her, on an upturned tub, stood the 
seal-oil lamp. It was no more than a half-moon- 
shaped trough, hollowed from a soft stone, and half 
filled with thick brown seal-oil. A flat wick of moss 
leaned oh the edge of the trough, dipping into the 
oil, and burning with a steady white flame. 

Mrs. Bob seemed to be doing a little cookery 
over her primitive lamp. A battered meat-tin, a 
castaway, no doubt, from the Mission ship, hung by 
a string from one of the tent-poles, and twisted, 
bubbling merrily, over the flame. From time to 
time she picked up a spike of bone which lay beside 
her, and poked the wick. This seemed to be all 
the attention the lamp needed. On the floor I saw 
a pot of seal's blubber, from which the oil was 
oozing. From this she could easily fill the lamp 

- — H 


if it should bum low. I warrant she licks her 
fingers after the filling ; and more than that, if she 
happens to fill the trough of the lamp too full I can 
well imagine her taking a few sips. 

I could not do much more than look into Bob's 
tent; there was no room. The floor was strewn 
with relics of work and mealtimes ; scraps of seal- 
skin, fishbones, chips of wood, bits of ' calico, either 
flung down as useless or left by the children when 
we interrupted their play. A fat, pale-faced baby 
was crawling about, exercising its sturdy limbs 
before returning to that queerest of queer cradles, 
the hood of its mother's smock. It found a bone, and 
squatted to gnaw it, cutting its teeth and acquiring 
a taste for the fishy flavour of seal meat at the same 
time. A family of pups romped and tumbled and 
snarled in their own comer ; and all around the edge 
of the tent lay dogs' harness, spare clothing, sails 
for the boat, and pots of seal meat and fish heads. 

This was a Killinek Eskimo's home. 

Bob was well-to-do in his way. He had a home 
of his own, though it was only a grimy little tent, 
so small that I wondered how they all packed them- 
selves in for the night. 

Some folks are not so well ofi*; they have to 
share a tent with some other family, a custom which 
leads to endless quarrels and jealousies. However, 
times are better since the missionaries came, and 
the aim of every man to have his own tent or house 
is being realised in Killinek, just as it has been 
realised all along the coast. 

And Bob was {nroud of his calico home. 

The walls fiapped in the breeze and strained 
against the poles. 


** Doesn't the rain come in sometimes ?" I asked. 

Bob looked at the hole in the top of the tent, 
where the cover was gathered round the bunch of 
poles. *'0h yes/' he said, ''the rain sometimes 
comes in and trickles down the poles, but we get out 
of the way." Admirable idea ! Imagine the tent- 
dwellers on a rainy night. With real Eskimo good 
humour they arrange themselves between the poles 
and watch the drops collect and trickle and drip beside 
them. What care they ? They are dry, and that is 
something to be thankful for. But sometimes they 
are wet, for calico is not proof against the torrential 
downpour that sometimes comes in summer time at 
Killinek. I have seen them at work after a rainy 
night, soaked and bedraggled, and looking, as some- 
body said, like drowned rats I But they went about 
their work with the same placid smile ; their clothes 
would dry in the wind and the sunshine. It is part 
of their life : they are content to take the rough and 
the smooth together. 

The himter comes home from his morning's toil, 
drenched with the rain and the spray. There is no 
fire to give him warmth ; no stove to dry his sodden 
clothes ; nothing but a smoky seal-oil lamp. He 
takes no heed. He contentedly munches his meal 
of dried fish heads or raw seal meat, and flings 
himself, wet as he is, on to the bed of moss and skins, 
to sleep like a tired child. They are a wonderfully 
hardy folk, able to endure the incidents of their 
rough life simply because it is their nature. Hunger 
and exposure are parts of the very existence of a 
hunter, and only seem to hard^i him the more. 

Sometimes, I think, the cold must be fearful for 

those Killinek tent-dwellers. From the moist days 



of May, when the snow houses begin to melt and 

threaten to tumble in upon their occupants, all 

through the changeable weather of the short summer 

and the biting autumn storms, the Killinek Eskimos 

live in their tents. Cheerfully, and without a 

thought that it is anything out of the ordinary, they 

endure what would kill a European outright. In 

November, when the sea is freezing and the rocks are 

coated with salt-water ice, and the snow begins to 

drift upon the land, they are still in their calico tents. 

They put on their sealskin clothes, and defy the cold. 

Bob seemed rather surprised when I asked him 

whether they did not find it cold in the autumn. 

" ni&le " (certainly), he said, " unet " ; and with that 

untranslateable answer I had to be content. ** Unet " 

may mean almost an3rthing, or it may be simply an 

expression and mean nothing. In Bob's case I took 

it to mean " Of course ; what a question 1 whatever 

did you expect ? " Bob's eyes twinkled when I spoke 

of the autumn. *' Plenty of seals in autumn," he said. 

I knew what that meant to Bob ; it meant plenty of 

food and clothes and boots. The autumn seal hunt 

comes at a most opportune time. It gives the 

people plenty of their best and most fattening food 

just when the cold weather is beginning to nip ; it 

makes them sleek and plump for the winter. Even 

at KiUinek the Eskimos do not look unduly fat ; 

their limbs have the smooth roundness of a child's ; 

they are shapely and weU proportioned ; but, all the 

same, they have a fine natural protection against the 

cold. They need no fire to warm them. I have 

seen them on their visits .to stations further south, 

where the huts are warmed by stoves. They pant 

and perspire with the heat, and are glad to get out 



of doors again. One woman who came to live at 

Okak complained bitterly of the warmth. ''It is 

breaking my life/' she said, ''it is breaking my 

life " ; and it was fully a year before she became 


They escape from some of the hardships of 

tent life when the time comes to move into 

snow houses. It is generally on towards December 

before the snow lies hard enough for building ; the 

time varies, of course, according to the weather. 

Mere snow is not enough ; it must have been beaten 

to stony hardness by the wind, and toughened by the 

cold, before it is fit to be cut into really durable 

blocks. A snow house for an odd night's shelter on 

a journey can be put up in a couple of hours, but a 

IQllinek snow house, which must stand for weeks or 

even months, takes a day or more in building. 

There are no jerry-workmen in Killinek. They 

shape the blocks with the greatest care, fitting and 

smoothing them into a tough wall in which no joints 

are to be seen, and making the house into a perfect 

beehive shape without a weak spot in it. The floor 

is below the level of the snow around, because the 

blocks for building are cut from within the circle of 

the wall. This makes the house look small and low ; 

but I know of one which was fourteen feet across, 

and in which the missionary, a six-foot man, could 

stand upright and walk. Every house is protected 

by a wall of snow built round it a few feet away ; 

this is a wise provision in a windy land like Labrador, 

for it keeps the wind away, and the storms can only 

whistle about the rounded top, which offers the best 

possible shape for safety. 

The door is a hole, closed by a slab of frozen 




snow, and reached by a tunnel along which it is just 
possible for a man to crawl. The tunnel is dug so 
that it runs uphill to the door ; partly because snow 
houses are usually built on a slope or bank, and 
partly because it is the right thing to the inscrutable 
Eskimo mind. 

The window is a sheet of clear fresh-water ice, 
which lights the house most gloriously. The inside 
of a new snow house is dazzlingly bright ; even the 
mean glimmer of the seal-oil lamp is reflected and 
magnified by the shining white walls. That is a 
new snow house: but after a few weeks, what a 
change I The walls are begrimed with soot and 
grease, the floor is strewn with all the litter of an 
Eskimo dwelling, the air is stuffy and ill smelling 
— ^nay, after a time the place becomes unbearable -^ 
even to its Eskimo tenants, and they build them- ^ 
selves a new house somewhere else. Not a very 
difficult matter where good snow for building is so 
ready to hand I 

I have found that a snow house makes a fairly 
snug shelter, though the air never gets much above 

Some men ** do things in style," and make quite 
a suite of rooms by joining two or three snow huts 
by tunnels. One hut serves as the living room, and 
harbours the big stone lamp or stove ; another is 
the bedroom, spread with polar bear skins; and a 
third may be a sort of unsavoury store house, piled 
with dogs' harness, seal blubber, skins, dried meat 
and fish, and the tent stowed away till the thaw 

Beyond the snow house while the snow is hard, 

and the tent for the rest of the year, the Killinek 



Eskimos have very little choice in the matter of 
housing ; and to look at them, broad and strapping 
folks that they are, you would agree that such a life 
suits them well« Since the Mission reacted them, 
a few families have respectable little houses of 
boards; but in former times the only alternative 
to tents and snow houses was the awful Eskinoio 
iglo. There are a few of these iglos in Killinek — 
dark and noisome dens. 

Try to picture a hut of turf and stones, propped, 
maybe, on rough stumps and branches which have 
been toilsomely gathered from the sea: the only 
ventilation is the occasional breath of air that wafts 
sluggishly along the dark tunnel-like porch; the 
only window is a square of membrane, brown and 
greasy-looking, stretched over a hole in the roof; 
the floor is a sodden patch of trampled mud ! That 
is a heathen Eskimo iglo; and I cannot imagine 
anjrthing more dismally unhealthy. 

If wooden houses are to be, the wood must be 

brought by ship. There are no trees in Killinek. 

The land looked bare and bleak enough, I thought, 

as I saw it from the ship ; it looked far barer when 

I was actually on it, wandering among the hills. 

There were plenty of wild flowers, even in Killind^, 

and plenty of moss ; but no wood. Here and there 

I came upon patches of feeble-looking brushwood 

crawling among the stones, dry and wizened, and 

this, I suppose, serves the people for fuel; but the 

ground was bare of the berries which are such a 

plentiful food-supply further south. The Killinek 

people have to go far afield to gather berries, miles 

and miles of trudging over moss and rocks, to find 

here and there a sheltered patch, while the Eskimos 



at Ramah, only 150 miles away, gather barrelfiils 
with the greatest ease. Killinek is the coldest, most 
dismal, and barest of all the Labrador coast — but 
it is the best seal and walrus hunting place of all. 
The people overcome their difficulties somehow or 
other. One old woman told me that she remembered 
how the men used to travel as far as Okak, 800 miles 
away, to fetch long trees for making sledges and 
kajaJ^s. Now they rely on the Mission, and on 
chance trading or whaling ships, for an occasional 
plank, or, greatest prize of all, a stick of tough 
juniper wood or even an old baluster rail to make 
a paddle. 

My visit to Killinek would not be chronicled 
completely if I said nothing about old Tuglavi. I 
saw him many a time as I wandered about among 
the rocks and the tents; a weird, wild-looking old 
man, with a childish smile on his face. He used 
to follow me by hours at a time, muttering strangely 
to himself, and answering all my questions with 
only a broadening of his constant smile. Poor old 
Tuglavi ! I gave up trying to draw any information 
out of him after I had tried to take his portrait. 
I armed myself with a ship's biscuit, and went in 
search of Tuglavi. I found him near his iglo, and 
offered him the biscuit. 

He took it with a most delighted ** Thank you " : 
*• Nakome-e-e-ek," he said, " nakomek." 

'* Adsiliorlagit-ai " (let me take your photograph). 

" Sua ? " (what ?) 

" Will you let me make a likeness of you ? " 

'^Atsuk (I don't know). May I eat the 


" Yes, presently ; just stand over here." 



" Nerrilangale " (let me eat it), and he turned his 
back on me. 

"All right; just turn round iand stand still a 

" Nerrilangale, ner-ri-langa-le-e-e-e *' ; and the 

poor old man broke down into sobs and ambled off 

home munching his precious biscuit. I was left 

gazing. I never caught him again. Once or twice 

I heard his shuffling step behind me, and a querulous 

voice said " I want another biscuit," but not another 

word could I get out of Tuglavi. What I know 

about him I have heard from the missionary. He is 

a famous old heathen chief. He has spent all his 

life camped among the rocks of the northern Labrador, 

and nobody knows how old he is. His people have 

come to the Mission station, bringing him with them ; 

they have heard from other Eskimos of the preaching 

of the Word of God, and they have come to hear it ; 

but Tuglavi cannot understand. His mind has failed; 

he is in his second childhood, and spends his time 

in aimless wanderings and in watching whatever 

there is to be seen. He manifests an insatiable 

curiosity, and gets into the Mission house as often as 

he can, just for the sake of a look round. The kitchen 

is his chief joy; European cookery is something 

new to Tuglavi ; and he has even been found tasting 

the contents of the cooking-pots. The missionary 

good-naturedly put up with the old man's childish 

ways until he discovered him one day hanging head 

downwards over the edge of the kitchen water-tank. 

He seized the struggling legs and hauled their owner 

into safety. Old Tuglavi had only been getting a 

drink I Missionaries do not often lock their doors, 

for fear of inspiring mistrust^ but in this case it 




seemed best to keep the old man out of harm's way 
by putting on an extra latch. Tuglavi soon solved 
this problem. He found an old broken fork, with 
only one prong, and by dint of much scratching he 
managed to raise the latch and let himself in. The 
missionary promptly forfeited the fork, whereupon 
old Tuglavi, with much sobbing and lamentation, 
went home to tell his woes. He presently came 
back to ask for payment for the fork ! 

Tuglavi was still at his childish wanderings when 
I was in Killinek, but the door was no longer locked. 
Some one was on guard, ready to cheer the old man 
up by the gift of some scrap or other of food, and 
show him out again. 

Tuglavi brought p/ ^ rtr wives with him to the 
Mission station. One was very old — his lifelong 
companion, in fact, and past work — ^almost as feeble 
as the old man himself; so Tuglavi had married a 
young wife as well, so as to have somebody at home 
to do the work ! I cannot imagine that there was 
much peace in Tuglavi's iglo. 

It is not to be wondered at that superstition is 
strong among these Killinek folk, so lately utterly 
heathen, without knowledge of Christianity or of 
civilisation. The first glimpse I had of it was in 
the fear that some of them had of being photo- 

I chanced to meet a young man whose face was 
a perfect picture of the heathen Eskimo type, and to 
my delight he was willing to pose then and there for 
his portrait. 

I got an excellent likeness of him from the front 

and then made ready for a side view. But he would 

have no more. ^* Tftva," he said (that is completely 



finished). I tried to coax him. Would he have it 
done if there were other Eskimos with him ? He 
hesitated. '' Imakka " (perhaps), he said. " Then go 
and fetch that group of men to stand with you." 

Off he trotted, and I saw him palavering with the 
men. Presently he started back ; but stopped at a 
fair distance and shouted *' They cannot come : the 
lady has their ghosts in her box/' pointing to a lady 
who was wandering on the beach with a kodak, and 
who had apparently just photographed the group. 
Then he fled to his tent on the hillside ! 

Children do not seem to mind : you may photo- 
graph them over and over again. 

I had glimpses, too, in my talks with Bob and 
others of the people of Killinek, of the religious 
beliefs of the ancient Eskimo race as they were in 
the old heathen days. The idea of a good Spirit did 
not enter their minds: the Spirit of their heathen 
life was ill-disposed and apt to sulk. He must be 
appeased, lest he hinder their hunting and cast an 
evil spell over them. It was an awfiil thing to 
approach his dwelling in the hills ; only certain men 
could venture, men who understood his ways and 
knew how to ward off his wrath. And so the chosen 
men used to go to the gloomy heights where 
Torngak seemed to dwell, taking with them offerings 
in order that his anger, ever ready to bubble over 
and destroy them, might be quenched at least for a 
time. This was the Power in whom the heathen 
Eskimos believed; a mighty Ill-will, a Being of 
malice and cruelty. Verily, a hopeless creed; a 
pitiful thing in comparison vnth the Gospel of Love 
in whose bounty they are now sharing. 

Their belief in the Spirit of the Sea is less terrible ; 



but, none the less, they thought that the sea, too, 
was governed by an ill-disposed power. They spoke 
of an old, old woman, whose home was at the 
bottom of the sea. She sometimes used to come 
up to breathe on the shores of Resolution Island. 
All the living things that swim the seas were under 
her control; the fish, the seals, the white bears, 
obeyed her will. She too must be appeased. If 
not, who knows but she might send a shark to break 
up the nets and eat the seals that are already 
entangled in the meshes! She might tell the seals 
to swim away, and not go near the hunting-places of 
the Innuit; she might drive the white bears north- 
ward, to infest the rocks of Resolution Island, where 
there are no hunters; she might feed the codfish 
with her own hand, and make them lie fat and 
sluggish while the fisherman plied his hook and line 
in vain. So she must be appeased ; and to a deep 
channel in a cleft of the rocks the heathen Eskimo 
would take his broken knives, his worn-out spear- 
heads, bits of meat, bones-anything was better than 
nothing — and cast them into the water for the old 
woman, that she might be in a good humour. 

Like aU nature peoples, the heathen Eskimos 
were firm believers in a life after death. Their idea 
was like that of the Happy Hunting Grounds, with 
the difference that the best hunting ground to 
Eskimo ways] of thinking is the sea. And so they 
laid the hunter on a lonely height overlooking the 
sea. The grave was just an oblong pile of stones, 
for the Eskimos knew nothing of digging — the only 
soil on their land is the shallow layer scattered over 
the hard rock. Within the pile the hunter was laid, 

dressed in his best clothes ; his harpoon was placed 



beside him» ready to his hand ; and flat stones were 
laid across the top of his resting-place to keep the 
ravaging wolves away. In a separate little heap of 
stones at the head of his tomb his stone lamp and 
cooking-pot were buried. 

Here and there along the coast of Labrador you 
may see those heathen graves, sometimes grouped 
into graveyards, sometimes solitary. Look in, and 
you see the mouldering bones : the harpoon is rotten, 
and its wooden shaft is almost gone ; the lamp and 
cooking-pot are half buried in the moss. 

" Ha," the people were wont to say, " he was a 
clever hunter; he is happy now; he hunts every 
night. See how smooth and white his bones are. 
This other was lazy, he has forgotten how to hunt ; 
the moss is growing over his bones ! " 

And perhaps some weird old man, with a far- 
away look in his restless eyes, would s^^y **Yes, I 
have seen them hunting : yes, I have seen their foot- 
prints in the snow." 

• . • . • . 

And I turned away from Killinek content with 
my visit. 

I had seen a tribe of real heathen Eskimos, 
among whom the Mission has only just begun its 
quiet work ; I had caught a glimpse of their habits 
and their ways of thinking, of their beliefs and 
superstitions; and I felt that I should do well to 
look again at my neighbours at Okak, and remember 
what they were long years ago, and study them 
again as they are to-day. 

And so I invite you, my reader, to come with me 

and see the people in their daily life and in their 

homes ; read with me their character, as I have read 



it during the years that I have lived among them 
and talked and travelled and camped with them. 
And if, by the pages that follow, you are aroused to 
an interest m their future, and in the efforts made to 
save them, body and soul, then I am content. 



First Sight of Labrador — Arrival at Okak 

IT was in the month of August, in the year 1902, 
that I first saw Labrador; and I shall never 
forget the gloom that seemed to hang over the 
desolate coast on that bleak summer morning. 

There was a chilling mist on the water, and 
through it I could dimly see a dull and sullen 
coast line, and hear the ponderous thud of the sea 
as it beat, beat, beat upon the rocky wall. 

It was a dispiritii^ picture ; ^d when I went 
ashore and saw the stunted brushwood and the dwarfed 
and twisted trees all dripping with moisture, and met 
the hulking sledge-dogs, bedraggled and forlorn, 
wandering in aimless fashion among the huts, the idea 
of desolation was complete. But the next day brought 
a different picture. The sun shone brightly on the 
neat white walls of the Mission church, and on the 
moss-grown huts that strewed the hillside; brisk, 
black-haired little people were running to and fro, 
bustling to help at the unloading of the ship ; there 
was an air of life and brightness about the scene. 

I caught some of the glamour of Labrador ; I saw 

something of the charm of this lonely land, a charm 

that in some strange fashion makes people love it, that 

makes old residents who have left it pine to return, 

that makes even the casual visitor vow to come again. 

I walked upon the hillside in the sunshine, and 



marvelled at the wealth of wild flowers ; they were 
eveiywhere, rearing their heads among the unpro- 
mising stones, and blooming in profusion amid the 
thick moss that carpeted the ground. Some of them 
I knew— delicate harebells, and tall foxgloves, and 
humble scentless violets, and yellow dandelions — and 
some were strange to me: I found when I gathered a 
bunch that they soon withered : it seemed as if they 
were Uving in a hurry ; springing up from the sodden, 
half -frozen sprinkling of soil that barely covers the 
rocks, and bursting into brilliant bloom, and withering 
away, all in the space of a summer that only lasts six 
or seven weeks. Surely they were making the most 
of their chance of living : I had hardly thought that 
the land of Labrador could look so gay. The butter- 
flies were flitting to and fro ; the grasshoppers were 
about, with their queer sudden leaps ; the mice and 
lemmings darted under the stones, bristling and 
squealing : it seemed such a summer land ! So 
different can two impressions be. But it was not this 
short summer visit of mine in 1902 that gave me my 
real impression of Labrador. I rather think of the 
autunm of 1908, when I came back to the land to 
make my home at Okak, and to plant a hospital there 
among the Eskimos. 

I remember the tension with which we waited for 
the cry of " Land 1 " and I remember with what a 
mighty roar the steward woke me up, and how I 
rolled over with a jerk to look through the port- 

And so I saw again the bare black rocks of 
Labrador, probably two or three miles away, but 
seeming no more than a stone-throw. It looked 

a poor bleak place, but any sort of land was welcome 



after a journey across the Atlantic in a 222-t<»is 
barque, in the teeth of what the captain rather 
flatteringly called head-winds, but which turned out 
to be the equinoctial gales. 

I looked on the land with a strange sense of 
expectancy ; and then there came to me the feeling 
that has come to others, the feeling that there was 
something away behind it alL It was awfully de- 
pressing in itself; but to me it seemed like a veil 
that might lift and disclose a vision of hope. 

I know that in summer the scene is brighter — 
a picture of bold cliffs and headlands ^^^ of long fiords 
with rocky walls all patched with wnite and green, 
where the snow lies unmelted in the shade and the 
scrubby brushwood flourishes in the sunshine; of 
stretches of grey moss, and splodges of vivid colour 
where the wild flowers have got a hold ; of distant 
heights, snow-capped, sharply focussed in the clear 
air; of blue waters dancing in the sunshine — but 
I like to think of Labrador as I saw it on that 
October morning; bleak and silent, lapped by a 
leaden sea, but giving all the time that charming 
hint of something to be sought, something to live 
for. All day long we steamed past bare black rocks, 
and night fell upon the same grim scenery: this 
was Labrador. 

In the morning we were at anchor off Ramah, 
in a deep little harbour among the hills. The 
solitary missionary was in transports of delight. " I 
had almost given you up," he said, "you are so 
late " : and he went on to tell us how only the night 
before he had told two men to make ready to tramp 
over the hills to Hebron, seventy miles away, to ask 
for news and stores. 

While we were chatting, two Eskimos came in ; 


Thb Sba Front at Okak 

boudi. Over tbe porcbe* 

th« Ivgat of ibc E^nH Tillaga, with a papuli 
' liitT.fiVc ligts, piiMt el tbcsa rEipeclkblt llltlc boi 


small shock-headed men, clad in cordm*oy trousers 
and oily blanket smocks. 

Their little restless eyes gazed about with won- 
derment» the while they gabbled strange words with 
great volubility. 

As fast as one paused for breath, the other took 
up the tale, and I could not help smiling at their ob- 
vious earnestness about something. The missionary 
sat gravely listening to their speeches, occasionally 
giving a laconic '* Ahaila " (yes) ; and at the end they 
seemed mightily pleased, for they went out grinnmg, 
with many a sly nudge at one another, and 
'' NakomSk " (thank you) to the company generally. 

Then we got the explanation. "Those are the 

two men that I told to go to Hebron, and they have 

been to ask whether they need go, now that the ship 

has come. I expect there will be feasting in Ramah 

to-day, for their next question was whether they 

might eat the provisions I had given them for the 


It came out later in the day that one of the men 

had eaten his pork and biscuits as soon as he got 

them, I suppose as a sort of foundation for his 

journey. Actually on the road, he would have been 

content to chew an unpromising slab of tough dried 

fish ; but I think he must have felt rather relieved 

when the missionary gave him permission to demolish 

the pork. 

The ship did not dally in Ramah; we only 

stayed one day, because of the lateness of the season ; 

and on the morning of the 7th of November, 1908, 

we dropped our anchor in Okak Bay, in sight 

of the biggest of the Eskimo villages ; and there, at 

the old settlement of Okak, among the dull little 

49 D 


huts that dotted the slope of the hill, and close to 
the tapering tower of the Mission church, I saw my 
future home. 

When we went ashore there was an Eskimo wait- 
ing to hand us into the boat. He stood at the bottom 
of the gangway steps ; and when I looked down on 
his head all the pictures that I had seen of the 
Eskimos, and that had seemed unreal when face 
to face with the people themselves, came back 
to me. 

Here was an Eskimo, black-haired and shaggy- 
headed, squat and solid of figure, square shouldered 
and short necked, with small active hands and feet, 
perhaps a little more than five feet tall, but muscular 
and heavy of build ; and when he looked up it was 
a face from the picture books that looked into mine, 
a square smooth face with an oily-looking yellow skin 
and ruddy patches on the cheeks ; his lumpy cheek- 
bones seemed well padded with fat ; his nose was a 
small flat dab ; and he had a pair of restless little eyes 
that peered out of narrow slits. I handed my wife 
down the steps, and he helped her into the boat. His 
smattering of English had a quaint ring with it: 
**Take care, lady, boat plenty wet — fine day, sir," 
and I shook hands with this characteristic-looking 
Eskimo, and thought that I should like to make his 
closer acquaintance. My wish came true : as I look 
forward over the years that I am to chronicle I see 
his face many a time, sometimes smiling, sometimes 
awkward, sometimes quarrelsome ; he gave me some 
tough questions to answer ; he gave me many a trying 
hour; he did me many a little kindness. The one 
and the other were so mixed up ; he was a thoroughly 

human Eskimo. Paulus and I became very good 



firiafids, such is my memory of him — and he saved 
my life once ; hut that comes later on. 

There was a keen wind hlowing as the men rowed 
us across from the ship to the shore, and they had 
hard work to get along. ''Aksuse" shouted the 
steersman, and the rowers bent their backs and pulled 
their hardest. Every time they flagged, every time 
he saw a gust of wind coming, his cry was the same 
— "Aksuse." Aksuse — ^be strong; it was the Eskimo 
greeting, the same word that met us at Ramah when 
we first touched land, the *' Aksunai " of welcome 
given to several at once ; and I saw that the meaning 
has not dropped out of it as it has out of some 

" Aksuse," shouted the steersman ; " be strong — 
put your hearts into it — do your best," and the oars- 
men obeyed with a will. What more noble greeting 
could you imagine than this old Eskimo password, 
the people's greeting through all time ? 

*' Aksuse," shouted the folk as we walked along 
the jetty, and we could not but feel heartened for 
our task by the very sincerity of the welcome. One 
man thought to go one better: he had a trifle of 
English to air : he touched my wife's arm, and held 
out his hand. ** Good evening, sir," he said ! 

Ten minutes later we were walking round the 
new hospital. This is a matter-of-fact sort of state- 
ment, and takes but a few words in the telling; 
but it sums up the result of a good many months 
of downright hard work. 

Early in the year the missionary in charge at 

Okak received word that the hospital was coming. 

^* Would he please make a foundation, flfty-two feet 

by thirty-six ? " 



I think a great many people would have been 
appalled at such a request as this, but we had a 
practical man to deal with; he simply called the 
Eskimos together and set them to work, himself 
toiling as hard as any. They fetched stones from 
the beach and the hillside; they sent the women 
and children with boxes and buckets, to carry sand 
from the patch of sandbank that peeps up at low 
water ; and so they built the foundation. 

I wondered, as I walked round the walls, how 
the comer stones had ever been put in place. They 
were enormous lumps of rock, and had been raised 
fully five feet off the ground without the help of 
any kind of machinery. In fkct, the whole feat 
of building the foundation surprised me, for the 
beach is covered with ice for nine months of the 
twelve, so that the pebble gathering and sand fetching 
must have been accomplished at a mitrvellous rate 
for the foundation to be made, and the hospital to 
be built upon it, all in the space of one short season. 

I asked the missionary about those comer stones. 

For answer he smiled an inscmtable smile. ^* We 
had to pull all together,'' he said. It appears that 
they made a tripod of heavy tree-stems, slung a 
pulley from the top, passed a thick rope over the 
pulley and tied it to the stone, and then got hold 
of the rope, and pulled all together ! It sounded 
very simple, but I looked again at those comer stones 
and wished I had been there to see the pulling. 

I imderstood it better during the afternoon, for 

a strong wind began to blow, and the oarsmen were 

unable to row the lighters ashore. The work of 

unloading threatened to come to a stop, and the 

captain dared not delay with the Labrador winter 


At Ibe loa riahr-hand i 
of bsnoc hu ponnii lab 
drim, and Tabu, Johan 


treading on his heels. ''Ajomarpok" (it cannot be 
done), said the men at the oars. ''All right/' said 
the captain, " get a rope — get the women — get every- 
body » and let them all pulL" As soon as the word 
went round there was a stampede to the jetty: 
women came rushing out of th,e huts, tying bandanna 
handkerchiefs over their heads to keep their hair tidy 
in the wind; children raced from house to house, 
gathering their friends. ''Come and pull," was the 

By the time the people were ready the rope 
had been tied to the lighter and passed ashore. 
The mate on the ship blew his whistle; the man 
in charge of the rope on the jetty waved his hand 
in answer and yelled to the people. " Att6 " (get at 
it), he shouted, and the people began to pull. 

They tramped along the jetty, clinging to the 

rope, and singing in time to the march-like beating 

of their boots on the boards. "Att6, att6," they 

cried when the pace began to slacken, and then 

sang and tramped the faster. There was a constant 

stream up one side with the rope, and down the 

other side to get a fresh hold, and as fast as the 

rope came ashore the man at the end was coiling 

the slack into a neat pile. A jollier lot of people 

I have never seen; tliey sang and tramped, and 

laughed and sang again, as if they had not a care 

in the world; and all the while the lighter came 

steadily on, rising to the waves and breaking them 

down, stopping for nothing, but riding shorewards 

in. I went on board the ship to watch their work, 

and fix>m the deck I could hear the sound of their 

singing borne on a wind that whistied through the 

ngging. This was " pulling all together," a practical 



illustration of the old proverb, ** Where there's a wiU, 
there's a way " — and that seems to be how difficulties 
are overcome in Labrador. 

I admired the charming simplicity of our mission- 
ary at Okak ; nothing seemed to daunt him, and he 
evidently thought the work of making a foundation 
a very small thii^. 

*' You will have to build a bridge over the brook 
in the springtime/' he said, *^ the path to the hospital 
is too narrow " — and there I was, face to fiice with 
my first building problem, thinking to myself that 
I must catch the Labrador courage and be ready 
for whatever should come, and inwardly praying for 
the spirit that dwelt in those first old missionaries 
and that dwells in their followers to-day. 



The Frxezing of the Sea — Sealskin Clothes and Boot^— 

Winter Cold — ^The Home-Comino. 

ON the morning of the 10th of November the 
Harmony was gone, and big and bare the 
bay looked without the familiar black hull and 
spidery rigging. It was impossible to avoid feeling 
just a touch of the loneliness of Labrador on that 
raw morning, but there was work to be done, and 
the constant round of duties proved an ideal cure. 
When a man is busy making and painting and 
famishing a home, unpacking a two years' supply 
of all imaginable necessaries, and at the same time 
wrestling with a new language and making acquaint- 
ance with a strange people, time cannot drag ; and 
I found that the days simply melted away. 

The village seemed to have suddenly emptied, 
for more than half the houses were boarded up 
and deserted; and I was told that the people had 
gone back to their autunm seal-hunting, which they 
had left when the Harrrumy came. As I took my 
daily walks upon the hills the cold struck dismal 
indeed* The land was all covered with hard snow, 
and the beach was crusted with a coating of ice 
that crackled and boomed as the tides lifted it and 
left it. The sea had a queer haze hanging over 
it; it looked exactly as if the water were getting 
ready to boil, and the vapour was gently drifting 

with the wind. '^Ah," said the people, ''the sea 



will soon freeze; it is smoking already. That is 
always a sign that the ice will soon cover it." 

Day by day I watched the "smoke," but the 
wind kept the water constantly tossing, and gave 
it no chance to set. It was not until the 27th of 
November that a calm night came, and when I 
looked out of my window at bed-time the water 
had a muddy surface in the clear moonshine; and 
in the morning there was ice. 

It seemed strange to look over a great grey plain 
instead of the white-capped waves; there seemed 
to be something wanting; and it was some time 
before I found out that the silence was bothering 
me. We had got so used to the rustle of the tides 
upon the beach, and the murmur of the waves upon 
the bay, that the utter stillness was painful. I think 
it was my first experience of perfect silence: even 
in the quietest part of England there is always some 
sound, near or distant; but as I rambled on the 
hills that afternoon the feeling was quite eerie. 
There was not a breath of wind; I seemed to be 
alone in a frozen world ; and I felt really glad when 
a dog began to yelp somewhere in the village, 
perhaps a mile away, and my ears at last got some- 
thing to occupy them. 

All the morning the new ice was deserted ; there 
were children playing near the edge, but they seemed 
afraid to venture far, and nobody took any notice 
of them. It was not until midday that the grown- 
ups took any interest in things, and then I saw 
an old man go hobbling over the beach with a stick. 

With proper Eskimo dignity and dehberation 

he inspected the ice and prodded it ; then he walked 

on it, at first feeling his way cautiously, but soon 



more boldly, and came back to say " Piovok '' (it is 
good). He had done his duty, which was to test 
the new ice, for the people have great faith in their 
old men as judges of ice and weather. As soon as 
the children heard "Piovok" they gave a scream 
of delight, and went racing over the bay — perhaps 
freed from the shadow of a thrashing that had 
hovered over them as long as the ice was dangerous 
— and spent the rest of the day romping and playing 
"tig" and "sledges" without a fear in the world, 
and as if there were no such thing as nine or ten 
fathoms of icy water under them. I took a very 
short and cautious walk on the ice that first day, 
but I cannot say that I enjoyed it — it was too nerve- 
racking by half. The surface had a queer elastic 
feel and gave way under my feet, like walking on 
cushions (such was the sensation), and swayed so 
horribly that I was glad to get off it. On the next 
day I tried a little skating on it, and thought to 
myself that nowhere in the world could there be 
such a place for skating as Labrador, with its 
hundreds of miles of tough grey ice and its sheltered 
channels and Norway-like scenery. But I was mis- 
taken about the skating. No enterprising syndicate 
will ever exploit the North Atlantic Ocean as a 
skating rink, for on the third day the surface was 
slushy — ^the salt was working out; and on the day 
after that there was a snowstorm which covered the 
ice a couple of feet deep with hard waves and ridges 
of snow, and not all the sweeping in the world could 
have brought the skating back again. 

Three days was the most of skating that ever 
I got in one season all the time I was in Labrador. 

With the freezing of the sea the Labrador winter 



begins, and I hope that every new comer has the 
same good advice that I received jfrom my friend 
the missionary — '^Be wise in time: wear Eskimo 
dothes.'* I bad done my little bit of skating in my 
English boots, but they had long since proved too 
cold for my walks on the hills, and the change to 
native clothes and boots was a welcome one. Mr. 
Simon said that he would arrange things for me; 
accordingly the village '^ tailor," a square-faced, brisk 
little Eskimo woman, came in one day like a minia- 
ture hurricane. 

There was no awe, no aloofness about her — she 
had made clothes for too many successive mission- 
aries to feel anything but business-like ; so she stood 
me up, and looked at me, and measured me with 
her arms, and bolted out satisfied. ''A bit taller 
than my husband, and not so fat" — ^was her com- 
ment; and the outcome of it all was that after a 
few days she turned up again with a big bundle, 
and I found myself the possessor of a "dicky" 
(blanket smock) and a complete suit of sealskins just 
like those the Eskimos wear, and all for the outlay 
of a modest sum in return for the good woman's 
excellent needlework. Meanwhile I had got several 
women to work at making boots. Their method 
of measuring was much the same as Juliana the 
tailors: they came in, gazed at my feet, and went 
out I I was quite unable to see the sense in this, 
so I laboriously made paper patterns with the aid 
of the store-keeper and his stock of boots. I gave 
them to the next woman who came to measure me 
for boots, and she accepted them with a smile — 
but the boots she made fitom them were either 

too big or too small, and desperately ugly. I confess 



that I always got a decent fit when I let the women 
do the work in their own way, and Juliana explained 
it easily enough. "Some women,** she said, "take 
up more in the sewing than others, and some are 
not used to patterns. Now I will make you some 
good boots"; and without pattern or measure, or 
anything else beyond her bare word, away she trotted, 
and in a few days brou^t me the best pair of boots 
I ever had. The long and short of it is that boot- 
making is an art, and the women take it seriously. 

Whenever I went into an Eskimo house I found 
the women and girls chewing something. I imagined 
at first that they were eating, or chewing reindeer 
ears (which they cut up into a sort of native chewing 
gum); but no, they were softening the edges of 
the boot-leather for the needle. An Eskimo boot 
is made in only three pieces — ^the legging, the tongue 
or instep, and the tumed-up, trough-like sole: the 
bootmaker cuts them out, and hands them round to 
be chewed. Eskimo teeth are made for the chewing ; 
they meet edge to edge instead of overlapping as 
ours do; and the chewing of the boot-leather is 
woman's work from one end of life to the other. 
Little children who have hardly cut their teeth, 
old women who are too feeble and blind to do any- 
thing else, sit mumbling and chewing; chewing on 
through life until they can chew no more, or until 
they have to say, as an old woman once said to me, 
•* I can no longer chew : my teeth are worn away : 
I am old." And so, through the (to me) mysterious 
processes of measuring and chewing and sewing, I 
got my Eskimo boots. 

And with the freezing of the sea there begins, 

too, the real Labrador cold — not the bleak, Uting 



cold of autumn, when the wind blows from the east 
over the freezmg sea, but the grim cold of winter. 
Oddly enough, it does not feel so very cold ; it is a 
dry air, coming from the trackless desert of the in- 
terior of Labrador, bracing and keen, and lacking 
some of the sting of the sea wind ; but night by 
night my minimum thermometer sank lower, until, 
towards the end of January, it could go no further, 
and the indicator used to stick each night at minus 
forty. It is the little things one does not think of 
that show best the power of the winter cold. 

One learns to watch one's neighbour's nose on the 
daily walk ; lips stiffen with icicles ; hands cannot 
bear to be without gloves for a moment. Our sitting- 
room was rather stufly one day,' after a visit frx>m a 
merry crowd of Eskimos, so I opened the window 
for fresh air. In a twinkling the pictures on the 
walls were covered with frost, and the plants on the 
side table — my wife's own pet little hobby — drooped 
their heads with one accord and died. I shut the 
double window with a slam, but it was too late ; the 
plants were dead, and tears began to run down the 
faces of the pictures. That was my first lesson about 
King Frost in his own country 1 

There was a little pantry built next to our kitchen, 
a tiny room with a felt padded door and a huge brick 
stove, and there we stored the potatoes and eggs and 
other things that must not freeze. 

On the windy nights I used to make a chilly 
pilgrimage at one or two o'clock to fill up the stove 
and save the potatoes. 

And ours was a warm house, built of boards and 

fdt in alternate layers. Labrador is a cold place — 

colder than folks realise. I have heard that in the 








s; ^--^ 
i Hi 




old days, when the houses were not so good as they 
are now, the missionaries have had to take turns to 
sit up all night and keep the vegetables from freezing. 
It strikes me as a new light on a missionary's life : 
one pictures him sitting up to comfort and reUeve the 
suffering, but one does not realise that in the in- 
terests of his own health in the grim land that he has 
chosen to serve he must, perforce, sit up and nurse 
the potatoes. 

So much for the winter cold — it is a very vivid 
memory to me. Early in December the Okak brook 
was frozen solid, and the people, instead of fetching 
water, came with hatchets and buckets and carried 
away lumps of broken ice to thaw. One little girl 
used to come every day with a sack on a little sledge, 
and drag it home filled with the smaller bits that 
other people had pushed aside : it seemed a strange 
idea — ^the family's drinking water kept in a sack. As 
for ourselves, we were rather more squeamish than 
the Eskimos, who took no notice of the fact that the 
dogs were constantly trampling their chopping-place 
on the brook ; we sent a couple of men, with an iron 
tank on a sledge and twenty dogs to pull it, across 
the bay to the big river. They reached water by 
jabbing a hole in the ice with a t6k — a sort of enor- 
mous chisel with a six-foot handle — and ladled it out 
with a tin mug. By February the ice on the river 
was eight feet thick, and they had to make a pit with 
steps up the side : one man stopped in the pit, and 
ladled the water into buckets, while the other man 
carried the buckets up the steps and emptied them 
into the tank. So we got our water. The men 
were able to bring about two hundred gallons 

at a load, and they made it their duty to keep the 



Mission house and hospital supplied all through the 

Another effect of the freezing of the sea was that 
the people began to make their way home to the 
village. All day long some one or other was on the 
watch, and the cry of " Kemmutsit" (a sledge) brought 
every able-bodied person tumbling out of doors to 
greet the new arrivals. Some of the travellers had 
only come a mile or two, and the dogs trotted up to 
their well-known homes all fresh and frisky; others 
had been on the road most of the day, and their dogs 
were footsore and worn out ; it was their first time 
in harness after the summer and autumn of idleness, 
and they panted and struggled and whined with 
weariness, though a few weeks later the same dogs 
would be doing sixty or seventy miles at a stretch 
without any trouble. 

Every new comer had the same question to 
answer — " How many seals have you caught ? " That 
was the measure of a man's greatness for the time 
being; and it was amusing to see some of them 
swaggering about because they had got twice as 
many seals as last year. One man had seventy- 
seven, a truly splendid catch; and this, compared 
with the average of fifteen or so that usually came 
his way, was enough to turn his head, and set him 
bragging of his skill, and of the marvellous things 
he would do with his wealth. I remember hearing 
that one of his ambitions was to lay in a stock of 
tinned mutton, so that he could feed on a higher 
plane than his neighbours, who must, perforce, be 
satisfied with seal meat. 

By the middle of December the village looked 

fairly busy, and instead of a mere handful of work- 



people straggling down the various paths to the church 
when the bell rang, each meeting-time brought a 
bustling crowd hunying along; and instead of the 
half-empty church, chill and bare, there was the 
pleasant warmth of a crackling stove, and the cheer- 
ful sight of scores upon scores of brown faces shining 
with good feeding, and bright eyes twinkling with 
pleasure. " Home for Christmas " was the uppermost 
thought in everybody's mind; and day by day the 
sledges came, and the excitement grew and grew, 
to culminate on Christmas Eve, when the last belated 
stragglers hove in sight, and when with a roar of 
" Tikkiput — ^kemmutsi-i-i-t " (they are come — ^the 
sledges), the ^ole population of the village went 
racing over the ice to meet the last comers and 
hurry them homewards. Not only boys and girls, 
but staid and stolid fathers of families, mothers 
with sleeping babies in their hoods, grim old grand- 
mothers and ancient white-haired veterans, joined 
in the rushing, shouting crowd, careering at their 
best pace — ^and a remarkably fast pace, too— over 
the slippery sledge track. Sometimes those last 
sledges had been in difficulties on the way. I 
have seen men come home with their legs encased 
in ice, showing that on some treacherous place 
they had slipped through into the sea, and had 
only saved themselves by clutching at the sledge; 
and once a sad-eyed party reached the village, 
with a mother sobbing over the loss of her little 
girl, who had tumbled into the black water and 
been lost when the sledge gave a sudden lurch 
as the ice broke under it. But "home for Christ- 
mas" is the great idea: the Eskimos will run a 

little risk rather than be late, though, happily, the 



ice is firm in most years before the middle of 

And making ready for Christmas was the great 
occupation in every household. A good deal of 
decorating seemed to be going on, for the storekeeper 
was evidently doing a brisk trade in wall papers, and 
people were constantly coming to me for illustrated 
magazines to eke out ; in fact, I found that some of 
the poorer ones had their walls completely pasted over 
with pages torn from various weeklies and monthlies. 
I, being an Englishman, was often asked to explain 
the pictures, and hard work I sometimes found it 
^^ Are there really animals like these in the forests of 
England ? " said one innocent old man, as he pointed 
an oily and tobacco-stained thumb at a page of 
political cartoons — birds and dogs and lions, adorned 
with the faces of parliamentary personalities. I did 
my best, but he could not see the humour in the 
idea. " There is no sense in it," he said ; " if they do 
not exist, why should there be pictures of them ? " 

Every house had its Christmas tree, and sometimes 
more than one. Big Julius, who is the proud father 
of a family of plump daughters, had a tree for each of 
the girls, to say nothing of a special little tree at the 
foot of the grandmother's bed — ^to the huge delight of 
the old lady. It is no great trouble to get a Christ- 
mas tree ; it can be brought home on the top of a load 
of firewood, for the spruce fir, which looks exactly 
like the Christmas tree of all our picture books, is one 
of the few trees that grow in Labrador. The most 
northerly trees that I know on the coast are a little 
forest of these firs at the head of Nappartok Bay, forty 
miles north of Okak. No Eskimo thinks it a hard- 
ship to run twenty miles or so with his sledge and 



dogs to find a specially neat little tree in some 
sheltered hollow of the hills : if he has not the incli- 
nation to go so far afield, he probably brings home a 
bmidle of spare branches and fastens them into bare 
places on the tree he has chosen — because trees that 
grow in exposed places have all their branches on the 
south side. 

In the evenings I used to hear the bandsmen 
practising Christmas music. Samuel, the performer 
on the tenor horn, lived in a little hut not ten yards 
firom my window, and there he sat, hour after hour, 
making the walls rattle with the most weird and 
awfiil hootings ; and just behind us was the cooper's 
house, where Solomon, the cooper's growing lad, 
was taking first lessons on the comet, and setting all 
the village dogs a-howling in the moonlight. 

The people were home for Christmas — and home, 
to the Eskimo, is his wooden house at the Mission 




Little John — Poor Akpik and the Custom of the People 

WALKING along the winding and slippery 
path that runs between the houses and the 
beach, in the congenial company of my friend the 
missionary, we came upon a group of men bending 
over an upturned sledge. ''Hello, John/' said the 

From the middle of the group there came a gruff 
little voice; it gave the proper Eskimo greeting. 
** Aksunai," it said. 

Have you just got home ? " 

No," said liie voice, " I got home yesterday." 

'' Indeed ; I didn't see you — ^mikkimut, immakka 
(because you are so small, maybe)." 

There was a roar of laughter at this witticism, 
and out of the midst of the group a small, shock- 
headed man pushed his way. 

His little eyes were twinkling ¥rith merriment, 
his shaggy face was beaming, and his plump little 
hand was held out for a shake. 

He seemed to be, enjoying the joke as well as 

anybody, and he gripped my hand and wrung it, and 

shouted ''Aksunai, aksunai," and laughed and 

chuckled in delight I thought as I looked into his 

eyes, ** Here is the smallest Eskimo that I have seen : " 

most of the Eskimos are small as inches go, though 

broad and bulky, but here was a veritable pigmy, a 



well-built man with brawny muscles, but standing 
but an inch or two over four feet. 

That was my first meeting with little John. 

A day or two later I was along the village with a 
camera, when the same gruff voice hailed me from 
the roof of a house. 

''Hai/' it said; ''is that the thing that makes 
pictures ? " 

*' Yes/' said I, and looked around for the owner 
of the voice. 

There he was, perched upon the roof of one of the 
biggest houses, armed with a hammer and a bimdle 
of shingles for mending leaky places. ''Aksunai, 
John," said L 

*' Ahaila," answered John ; ** has it got its habits 
with it?" 

" Habits " (piusingit) I took to refer to the plates 
which are necessary for the making of a picture, and 
John's word, which means " the usual things " — as I 
found later by digging into the dictionary in which 
one of the old missionaries has recorded his success in 
translating ideas into a form understandable to the 
Eskimo mind — ^was quite a proper one under the 

** Yes," said I, " it has still a habit unused." 

John began to clamber down firom his roof. 

** Can it make pictures itiside a house ? " 

lUale (of course)." 

Then come and make a picture in my house " ; 

and he led the way among the snarling sledge dogs 

that snoozed in the porch, and flung the door open 

for me crying '' Itterit, itterit (go in, go in) ; Katli, 

kaivoguk (we are both coming, Katli)." 

John was all bustle, afraid that the camera might 



*'open its eye" before he was ready; and whilst I 

was fixing the machine among the flour barrels and 

dog's harness and half-thawed seals that littered my 

end of the house, John, at his end, was urging KxAli 

and the children to greater speed in their hurried 

tidyings-up and changing of garments. He flung off 

his work-stained dicky and sat down in all the glory 

of shirt sleeves, breathing hard in his excitement, 

and called ** Taimak ! " (ready) before Katli had fairly 

fastened her blouse or tied the baby's cap-strings. 

Poor Katli was flurried, and with good cause : it is 

no small thing for an Eskimo woman to be asked to 

leave her domestic duties and pose for her portrait at 

a moment's notice, and as the average woman attends 

to her domestic duties clad only in blanket trousers 

and shirt, and the duties themselves are not so much 

cooking and baking — very little of either, as a matter 

of fact — ^but rather the scraping of oily sealskins and 

the sewing of boots, it is no matter for wonder that 

Katli had a brisk few minutes of sweeping skins and 

boards and pots on one side, and piling discarded 

work-a-day clothes behind the little boy, where she 

hoped they would be out of sight. All the same, the 

picture is fairly characteristic of a modem Eskimo 


I could not help noticing the two clocks ticking 

side by side upon the walL I asked John, ** Why do 

you have two clocks that tell difierent times ? " Now 

John's answer was a thoroughly Eskimo one, and 

delivered with real Eskimo gravity and slowness of 

utterance. " Last autumn," said John, " I did very 

well at the seal hunt. I got sixty seals and seven, 

and some of them were ugjuks (big seals). With so 

many seals I could pay all my debts and buy many 



things that were needful. The missionary says that 
we ought to prepare for the winter, so I got a whole 
barrel of flour and a sack of ship's biscuits, and we 
shall always have bread or biscuits to eat with the 
seal meat. There is plenty of seal meat, but ship's 
biscuit makes it taste better, and I like it and the 
children like it too— and Katli, too. I bought a new 
coat, and I will wear it on Christmas Day; and 
Eatli bought a new black dress, and the children all 
have new blanket dickys for the cold weather ; and 
I bought a new lamp, and it hangs over the table so 
that we can read in the evenings, and I have a 
bundle of wooden shingles to mend the roof, and a 
pair of new iron runners for my sledge. And still 
I had a little money left. I thought I should like 
a new clock, and Katli said she would like a clock, 
too; so we each went to the store and bought a 
clock. Ahaila, the clocks don't keep quite the same 
time — but it doesn't matter, for the church bell rings 
for the work-people at nine and twelve and a quarter 
to five, and we can always tell the proper time by 

And John's face was grave and earnest as he told 
me the story of the clocks, and I thought to myself, 
" These simple folk are just big children." And in a 
sense my thought is justified; but it seems to me 
that though the Eskimo is just a big child in his 
outlook on the wider world beyond his little Labra- 
dor, in the things of his own daily life he is a full- 
grown man. In the grim task of wresting a living 
from his stem surroundings the Eskimo excels ; but 
apart from this purely material side of his life, there 
are things in his nature — instinctive Eskimo customs 

— ^that one is bound to admire. It was in John's 



house that I caught a glimpse of one of the customs 
of the people* 

I happened to turn into the house to speak to 
little John about some piece of work or other, and 
found the family at dinner. They all began to rise 
shyly from their places, but John and I are good 
friends, and after a little argument they all sat down 
again and allowed me to sit on a box by the wall 
and do my talking while they ate. They would 
have been far better pleased if I had joined them at 
their food, but no amount of tasting and trying has 
ever reconciled me to the fishy flavour of seal meat, 
and they knew it. As John sagely remarked, " You 
Kablunaks (Europeans) have different mouths from 

It was a queer dinner-party. The table was 
pushed into the comer, and littered as usual with 
clothes and books and relics of work hastily laid 
aside, and dinner was spread on the floor. ** Laying 
the table for dinner" was an unheard-of thing in 
John's household, though there are Eskimos who 
have arrived at the dignity of knives and forks and 
a table-cloth. John's family was dining in proper 
Eskimo style, and on proper Eskimo food, too. The 
centre of the feast was an enormous iron pot, heaped 
with lumps and slabs and ribs and joints of raw seal 
meat, a repulsive-looking pile, only partly thawed 
and well bedewed with oil. 

Round the pot the family squatted, every one, 

excepting only the baby, armed with a business-like 

knife. Katli had a half-moon-shaped leather knife 

that she had been using for the boots ; John himself 

unhitched a formidable butcher knife from his belt, 

and the others had claspknives or penknives or any 



other sort of knives that they could lay hands on. 

As to the dmner, they all helped themselves, cutting 

off pieces or gnawing at bones, munching and 

chewing and rolling the juicy meat about in their 

mouths, and smacking their Ups with relish. Now 

and again Katli found some specially succulent 

morsel and gave it to one of the smaller children ; 

and the baby which one of the visitors had in her 

hood was tussling with a bone, cutting its teeth and 

educating its little Eskimo palate at the same time. 

There were several neighbours and friends in the 

circle, and the meal proceeded briskly without much 

talking. So busy were they all that perhaps I was 

the only one to notice a slow, shuffling step passing 

the window. The footsteps turned into the porch, 

and I heard the dogs yelping as somebody cleared 

them out of the way. A groping hand felt for the 

latch, and the door silently opened. A voice said 

" Aksuse " (be strrnig, all of you), and poor Akpik 

came in, choking and coughing at the sudden warmth. 

Nobody seemed to take much notice, excepting that 

John gave a laconic ** Ah " in answer to the greeting, 

and the circle ¥ridened to make room for the new 

comer. Akpik sat down and pulled a knife out of 

his belt, and I watched him pityingly as he sat 

helping himself with lean and shaking fingers to the 

tenderest portions of the meat. It was not long 

before he was satisfied, for he was sadly listless and 

weary, and with a simple ** Nakomdk " he wiped his 

knife upon his trouser leg and slowly made his way 

out again. Again nobody took much notice ; John 

said *' Ah," and Akpik shut the door after him. 

I was mystified by this strange Uttle drama, and 

I suppose that I showed my wonder in my face, for 



John answered the question that was in my thoughts 
just as if I had asked it. 

•* We all know Akpik," he said ; ^* he is a poor 
young man who cannot hunt or work for himself, 
and we know that he cannot work because he is ilL 
I did not invite him to come, but he is quite 
welcome. Among the people, no poor man will 
lack for a meal as long as there is food. It is a 
custom of the people." 

And John, having given his explanation, thought 
no more about it ; he was following the custom of 
the people, and took no credit to himself. Any 
other Eskimo would have done the same. 

Little John is what is known as a clever 
hunter — ^that is, he always meets with more than 
the average success. For this reason he is much 
respected by the people, in spite of his small size. 
I took the trouble to look into the cause of his 
success, and found that it was partly a matter of 
heredity. His father was a clever hunter in his 
day. Partly it is owing to John's infinite — or very 
great — capacity for taking pains. John always 
catches more trout than anybody else, but he takes 
a corresponding amount of trouble over his net ; he 
never lets a tear stand unmended, and he is on the 
watch to clear away bits of floating seaweed all day 
long. He seems to hit more seals and reindeer with 
his gun than most of the men, but then he leaves 
nothing to chance; his gun is always clean, his 
sledge is ever in repair, and, thanks to his good 
Katli, his skin canoe is never leaky. 

The last time I heard of little John he was 

within an ace of becoming famous, but the printer 

withheld his name, so he continues to live his simple 



life unspoilt It was in a halfpenny paper that I 
read about him, for there was a little paragraph at 
the bottom of the column, informing the world that 
llie Labrador coast had been visited by a terrible 
storm, and that two Eskimos had been rescued from 
a capsized boat in an exhausted condition. 

It was little John who rescued them, but the 
printer did not know that. I remember that storm 
very welL 

It was one of those calm, dull mornings that 

sometimes come, even in Labrador, when the still 

and heavy air seems to bring a feeling of gloom and 

apprehension with it. Some of the shrewder heads 

among the Eskimos prophesied bad weather, and 

when, towards noon, queer warm gusts of air came 

sweeping past, even the most ordinary man could 

tell that a storm was brewing. But the codfish were 

biting well, and it is easy to understand that with 

the end of the season so near — for it was September 

already — ^the fishers wanted to make the very most 

of every opportunity. The bay was dotted with 

boats, from the line of rocks a hundred yards from 

the solid little jetty right away to the open sea that 

stretches to the foot of Cape Mugford, and in every 

boat sat one or two men, jigging for codfish. They 

were wearing gloves of black sealskin boot-leather 

to keep the line from chafing their hands, and they 

were pulling the fish out of the water as fast as 

hands could work. The jigger is a bright piece of 

lead shaped like a little fish, and armed with two 

barbed hooks, and there was no need to do the 

patient jerk-jerk-jerk of the arm that the Eskimos 

will do, if need be, for hours at a stretch; no, as 

they told me afterwards, " Plenty, plenty fish, dggak 



(codfish) try to swallow jigger before him at the 
bottom — ^vcry fine." 

They stayed on the water until the last possible 
moment, but they are a wary folk, and as the spray 
came whipping along with the rising wind they took 
warning, and headed for the shore. 

They were none too soon, some of them ; they 
had barely time to drag their boats out of reach 
of the sea before the wind was howling and the 
waves were crashing furiously on the rocks. 

Round the bend, just outside the mouth of the 
bay, two men were sitting in their boat absorbed 
in their fishing. They had misjudged the signs of 
the coming gale, and it burst upon them while they 
were still far from shore. They pulled and tugged 
and strained at their oars, striving all they knew to 
reach shelter, but it was hopeless. It takes a lot to 
frighten an Eskimo fisherman ; I believe there are no 
fiber boatmen in the world; but those two fellows 
thought their time had come. They do not remember 
much about it; all they know is that they found 
themselves in the water, clinging to the keel of their 
boat, and staring at each other across it. They 
could not speak, for the waves were constantly 
rolling the boat so as to dip first one and then the 
other under the water, or crashing over and half 
stunning them ; the roar of the gale was in their ears, 
and they saw glimpses of the rocks slipping past as 
the wind drove them towards the open sea ; without 
much real hope they clung on until their poor 
cramped fingers began to slip off the slimy wood ; they 
made a last despairing effort to shout. Then, while 
all seemed dark and misty, and the sound of the 

storm was drowsy and far away, they were seized 



and bundled roughly into a boat, and that is as 
much as they can tell. But firom Katli I gathered 
that they had been drifting past a little island where 
John had pitched his fishing tent He was safe 
enough, sensible little man: his boat was in a 
sheltered cove, and he was enjoying a pipe while 
the storm thundered at the walls of his calico home. 
" Jan/' said Katli, ^* nala, nala (listen) — ^inuk (a man)" ; 
and John ran out in time to see the upturned boat 
come drifting down. He saw the hands clutching 
the keel ; he heard the faint voices hoarsely calling ; 
he raced to his boat. There was no time to lose, 
no time for thinking ; in another minute the wreck 
would have drifted past and rescue would be out 
of the question. He neither paused nor thought, 
he did what lay before him ; with a rag of sail, and 
a long oar stuck out astern to scull and steer, he 
pushed out into the storm. He ran his boat against 
the wreck, and as they raced together before the 
storm he leaned over and hauled the worn-out pair 
aboard, and in less time than it takes to tell he had 
swept his boat between the rocks into safety, 

I know little John; I have studied him from 
all sides, and I know that he is a true Eskimo ; he 
will not brag about that day. I tell you that, if 
you ask him about it, he will take his pipe out of 
his mouth and look at you with a puzzled sort of 
face that seems to say, *'What do you mean? I 
cannot tell you anything" — and then he will turn 
to his smoking again. 

And I tell you that he — aye, and many another 
Eskimo — ^would do the same again, any day. 



An Eskimo Wedding — Home Life — The Eskimo Baby 

ONE evening, at the close of the usual meeting 
in church, the missionary announced '^ Kaupat 
kattititsikarniarpok," which means " To-morrow there 
will be a wedding "—literally "a tying together." 
This laconic announcement was all the notice 
needed, for Labrador knows no such things as 
publishing of banns and formal engagements ; every- 
thing was duly arranged, and I looked forward with 
a good deal of interest to seeing a real Eskimo 

In the old heathen days the young man had to 
buy his wife: he offered so many seals to his pro- 
spective father-in-law, or rather his parents made the 
offer on his behalf, and if it seemed good enough the 
bargain was struck, and the delighted bridegroom 
led his purchase home. Nowadays a wedding is a 
solemn religious service in the presence of the 

Young Peter looks about him when his twentieth 

birthday is past, and finds that he has rather a fancy 

for Klara up the hill at Isaak's house. Perhaps 

her good looks have caught his eye; perhaps he 

knows that she is clever at splitting the fish and 

cutting up the seal meat for drying — ^which is about 

the same as saying that she is a good cook; but 

almost certainly he has satisfied himself on the most 

important point of all, that she is a good boot- 



maker! If she can dress the sealskins nicely and 
sew neat, water-tight boots her husband will be a 
happy man, always dryshod for his hunting, never 
without nice supple boots to slip on at a moment's 
notice, and likely to have a few spare pairs to sell 
to the schooner men, who are glad to pay a couple 
of dollars a pair for really good ones. So Peter 
makes up his mind on the all-important question. 
He goes to the missionary and states his case; or, 
if he is very bashful, his parents go with him or 
even instead of him. The missionary gravely nods 
his head, and sends for Klara's father and mother. 
Are they inclined to let their daughter marry young 
Peter ? Perhaps it is " Yes *' : they know Peter to be 
a handy lad and a smart hunter, and likely to make 
a good husband. 

If they say " No," there is no need for Peter to 
pine. He has other names on the list: Ruth or 
Rebekah, or whoever it may be, will do just as 
well : and if there is no just impediment to hinder 
the match, a wedding is arranged, and the missionary 
announces it fcH* the first convenient day. 

So on that vrinter morning I hurried on with 
my work, and managed to get across to church 
when the bell clanged at eleven o'clock. I found 
the place nearly fiiU : certainly all the women were 
there, and most of the men had snatched an hour 
firom their wood-cutting or had stayed at home from 
their hunting so as to be in at the ceremony. 

Punctually to the minute the missionary came 
in from the vestry, followed by the yoimg man 
and his chosen lady. The couple perched them- 
selves side by side on two stools set ready in the 

centre aisle, in fuU view of the people. They did 



not seem particularly bashful; the young man 
grinned rather sheepishly as he came in, but the 
girl was quite at her ease firom start to finish, and 
the two of them sat on their stools very solemn 
and sedate. We started with a hymn and prayer ; 
then came a sermon of fifteen or twenty minutes 
duration, pointedly addressed to the parties on the 
stools; after that the actual wedding ceremony. 
It was simplicity itself; no ring, no best man, no 
bridesmaids, no giving away. The missionary stood 
in firont of the couple, and asked them the usual 
questions; then he joined their hands and pro- 
claimed them man and wife. 

After a short prayer and a hymn they adjourned 
to the vestry to sign the register, accompanied by 
two grave-faced elders who were to act as witnesses. 
That register is a curiosity; page after page of 
Eskimo names in j^rawling handwriting, with here 
and there, at long intervals, a couple of European 
names to signalise the marriage of one of the mission- 
aries. This serious and weighty matter of signing 
the register took quite a time, and the village had 
got back into the swing of work before the newly- 
married couple came out. I watched them firom my 
window. The young man plodded stolidly ahead, 
stuffing tobacco into his pipe as he went, and the 
bride did her best to keep up with him. She lifted 
her skirt to hurry ; she planted her feet in the deep 
pits her lord and master was making as he trudged . 
through the soft snow; she did her best, but she 

He never turned his head. It did not seem to 
strike him to offer her his arm ; the custom of they 

people was for the bride to follow, and she followed. I 

78 ] 


How easily one might misjudge the Eskimos 
from little scenes like that I He did not seem to care ? 
Ay, but he cared. He proved to be a model husband, 
affectionate, kind, and faithful, and a smart hunter 
withal, well able to keep his little household in 
proper Eskimo plenty. They had a little wooden 
cabin of their own, and lived as happy as a pair of 
humming birds. But in public he must be the 
"boss." The eyes of the village were upon him 
that morning, and he had to maintain his dignity. 

1 thought to myself as I watched that couple 
i tramping up the hill to their hut that the very fact 
that they had a home of their own meant a great 
step forward from the days of heathenism. 

To have a house of his own is the ambition that 
fires every young Eskimo on matrimony bent, and 1 
could not help contrasting the life in our little village 
of Okak with the life among the wanderers of the 
north, who think nothing of crowding two or even 
three families into a tiny skin tent, and whose sole 
ambitions are to see good hunting and to have a 
shelter from the weather. 

I have known it happen in Okak that a young 

fellow acting as servant or assistant to one of the 

richer hunters has been absorbed into his master's 

family by marrying one of the daughters, and the 

young couple have been accommodated with a comer 

or a room ; but when a young man's fancy has soared 

as high as marriage it nearly always continues to soar 

until he has a home of his own. 

It may be only a mean little shack, built of rough 

tree stems and floored with packing cases ; but visit 

that home, and you see at once by the proud snule 

on the young folks' faces that an Eskimo's house is 

79 ^ 


his^ caotl e ; And there they live in their little wooden 
hut, until mere ambition — or the number of the little 
toddlers — ^prompts the young father to tack a wing 
on to his house, or to pull it down and build it again 
on a larger scale. 

f There is never a home without children. The 
/ birth-rate is high, and most mothers have a family 
( of ten or twelve. 

If no children are bom to a home, or if, as some- 
times happens with the terribly high infant mortality 
that prevails among the Eskimos, the little ones die 
off as soon as they arrive, that home need not remain 
childless. An Eskimo orphan never wants for foster- 
parents. In so small a nation blood relationships 
are close, and intermarriage has made " cousin " a 
bewildering term. That means that an orphan 
always has relatives of some sort willing to adopt it ; 
and in the odd case of a child being stranded without 
kin, as sometimes happens when people have come 
to the stations from distant tribes, the hospitable 
Eskimo nature comes into play, and some couple 
comes forward with the offer of a home. 

Adoptions are very common. Sometimes families 
simply exchange a child or two ; generally somebody 
wanthig a boy hands over a superfluous girl in 
exchange ; but this does not always end satisfactorily. 
It is all very well while the children are little, but 
when they get into their teens the boy's father 
sees a good useful lad working for foster-parents, 
and he wants him back. The foster-parents very 
naturally object : they have had the trouble and ex- 
pense of rearing the boy, and are beginning to look 
for some return. So the quarrel begins. Relatives 

on both sides are dragged in to palaver; the head 



men of the village are fetched to smooth things down 
or to add comisel to the confusion ; and finally the 
missionary is consulted, and the dispute is settled. 

Who would not be an Eskimo baby ? The very 
first nest it goes into is a charming bag of baby-rein- 
deer skin, with the fur inside, soft and warm ; and 
there the baby sleeps, safe from all draughts and 
chills and cold toes. Hung on the wall, or propped 
against the end of the bed, the bag looks like a giant 
watch-pocket; indeed, one good Eskimo housewife 
must have been struck by the likeness herself, for 
she brought me a miniature one when I left Labrador, 
and told me that it would do to keep my watch firom 
getting sick with the frost. 

The baby spends most of its early days asleep in 
its bag, stuffed feet downwards into the hood of its 
mother's sealskin or blanket dicky, but as time 
passes and it begins to feel the desire to kick, it dis- 
cards the pocket and nestles in the depths of the 
hood, and you may see its beady and wide-awake 
eyes peering over its mother's shoulder as she walks 
along. Sometimes the mother tires of the weight, 
and, for the sake of a rest, dumps the baby on a 
snowdrift to play. "Poor little mitel" I fancy I 
hear somebody saying, '* will it not catch cold ? " But 
there the fat little object sits, chuckling and goo-ing 
and grabbing handfuLs of snow. 

I have often seen small girls playing nursemaid, I 
strutting along with the big hood hanging lumpily ^ 
over their backs, and the long tail trailing on the 
snow. They have no big hood of their own ; a girl 
is not allowed to have one until she is old enough to 
get married ; so the little girl who sets out to act as , 
nursemaid borrows her mother's. She would be 

81 F 


helpless without a hood ; to carry the child in her 
arms, or to try to wheel it in a *' pram ** or drag it 
on a sledge would never satisfy it ; the hood of the 
woman's dicky has been the Eskimo cradle longer 
than memory can tell, and the gentle shrugging of 
the shoulders, or the to-and-£ro swaying of the body 
which swings the hood in such a soothing fashion, are 
things which come naturally to every Eskimo girL 

I think that there is no more useful member of an 
Eskimo household than a growing daughter; she 
minds the baby while the mother attends to the seal- 
skins ; she chews the leather and helps at the stitch- 
ing of the boots ; she fetches water from the brook 
and scrubs the floor — and in a busy time a good 
many Eskimo floors are scrubbed to clear away the 
traces of seals every day; she makes herself useful 
about the house in countless little ways, and even 
goes out fishing if there is nothing else to do ; and 
yet, when they first saw her, I warrant her parents 
said they wished she had been a boy! A boy is 
different; he is not of much use until he is old 
enough to go to the hunt; he drives off with the 
sledge and dogs and fetches firewood, or helps at the 
chopping, maybe, but most boys seem to spend the 
greater part of their time amusing themselves. Ah, 
but the boy is going to be a hunter, and there is a 
glory about that: nothing else is half so great, to 
Eskimo eyes, as a really clever hunter; and the 
&ther who sees his boy running wild, up to all sorts 
of daring pranks, and growing headstrong and self- 
willed, takes but little notice: the boy is growing 
up healthy and strong — some day he will be a 

How the mothers spoil their children! And 







5 :i 




boys, of course, they pet and pamper far more than 
^rls; the child nearly always gtfts its own way. 
There is no such thing as punishment in an Eskimo 
household, and very little (restraint ; and I am in-^ 
clined to think that some part of the high death-rat< 
among the children, and especially the higher death- 
rate among the little boys, is due to the laxity with^ 
ivhich the parents allow their children to grow up 
instead of wisely restraining them. 

Oh those children : the perky little rascals I 

One day I was walking along the path that runs 
in front of the houses, and I came upon a small boy 
clambering down among the rocks and hummocks 
that strewed the beach. He was a sturdy little 
fellow^ and quite a baby. I judged him to be two 
years old or so, certainly not more 'than three ; but 
he was clad in the dignity of ridiculous little trousers, 
so I must speak of him as a boy. He seemed to have 
escaped from his mother, and to be making for the 
beach on an adventure of his own ; and when I looked 
towards the line of houses I saw a young woman 
standing at one of the doors and calling to him. 

** Kaigit, kaigit " (come back), she shouted. 

The child took no notice at ail. 

" Kaigit, emera " (come back, my son), cried the 

This time the child looked round, but he went 

steadily on, barking his little knees against the sharp 

points, and tumbling into holes in his hurry : '' Nia, 

nia," he screamed. I half expected the mother to 

come and fetch him after that, for "Nia " is anything 

but polite : it was the equal of a very defiant " Shan't " 

that the child shouted at his mother. She took no 

notice ; she was beaten, and accepted the situation 



phlegmatically ; she turned back into the house to 
get on with her work. 

Meanwhile I was interested in the doings of the 
small boy : there was some grim purpose in his little 
mind, and I stayed to see the finish of the play. He 
scrambled on until he came to a dog that lay sunning 
itself behind a stone. Very likely it was one of his 
father's sledge dogs against which he had a grievance, 
for he caught it fearlessly by the scruff of the neck, 
and beat it with his tiny fist The dog, great 
powerful brute, could have eaten the boy whole, as 
it were ; but it made no resistance, simply cowering 
and whining under the little patting blows. I am 
certain that the boy did not hurt it, but it is bred in 
the slinking nature of the Eskimo dog that anything 
in the shape of mankind is master, irrespective of 
size, and so the tiniest children, masterftd little 
mites, play among the dogs without any misgivings. 
Having fulfilled his purpose the boy administered a 
last parting smack, and started on his voyage home- 
wards again, leaving the dog yelping and wheezing 
with misery and terror. 

I followed the little fellow to his home, and 
found his mother busily brushing the snow off him, 
and smiling with pride in her hardy little son. He 
was fli.yh^ien t, b ut what cared she? He was 
growing strong^and fearless ; some day he would be 
able to drive a team of dogs and paddle a kajak, and 
hunt the deer and seals and walrus ; he was a proper 
Eskimo boy. 

Not many days afterwards I went into the house 

and found little Abraha in bed. This was a strange 

sight ; it was surely not a case of illness, for there 

was no mistaking the mischief that twinkled in those 



bright little eyes that followed all my movements ; 
but here was Abraha in bed in broad daylight, while 
all the other boys — ^and babies too, for that matter 
— ^were shouting and playing out of doors. I east 
about for a cause of the phenomenon. ^^Ah," I 
thought, '* Abraha's mother has an eye to her boy's 
welfare after all: it is not all callousness; she has 
the mother's instinct to care for her children." 

Above the stove there stretched a string, and on 
the string there hung a row of little boots and 
trousers and shirt and dicky, sopping with moisture 
and steaming in the warmth. So there was a limit 
to the lengths to which the child might go un- 
checked. " Yes," she said, " he has tumbled through 
the ice and got wet through, and he must stay in 
bed till his clothes are dry : I cannot let him have 
his Sunday clothes, for he would spoil them — 
uivdtokulluk " (the little rascal) — this last with a 
smile of real motherly pride at the restless little 
fellow in the bed. ^* Aksunai, Abraha," I said ; and 
Abraha turned his face away with a sheepish air, and 
buried himself in the bedclothes. 

Many a time, as I have watched the children in 

the village, I have said to myself as this or the other 

little boy trotted past me, ** How like his father he is 

growing I" It was partly face, for many Eskimo 

chUdren are ridiculously like their parents in looks. 

Partly it was clothes, for the same hand (the 

mother^5) cuts and sews the clothing for the whole 

household, and often the clothes of the bigger ones 

descend to the smaller ones in turn, so that from one 

cause or another the peculiarities in the cut of the 

father's clothes reappear in the rest of the family 

wardrobe. Partly it is because the grown-up folks 



keep the plump limbs and rounded outlines of the 
child, even when they have passed middle age. And 
partly it is the inh ^rftnt t/^p denn y to imi tate, which 
is strong in the Eskimos, and which the cfiUdren — 
living, as they do, constantly in the presence of their 
parents — have every opportunity of cultivating. 
And so the little boy grows like his father ; he has 
Ishe same pose, the same stride, the same lift of the 
;t, the same way of holding his hands ; in fact, in 
[is every manner, and especially in little mannerisms, 
is his father over again. 



Choosing Names — Eskimo Childhood — Dolls — Sledges and Dogs 
— Punting on the Ice — The Little Hunter — In School 

IN heathen times the Eskimos had heathen names, 
and rare mouthfuls of the language some of the 
names were, great unwieldy strings of letters, some- 
times with a meaning, appropriate or otherwise, and 
sometimes without. Among the heathen people who 
have lately settled at Killinek, I found a boy and a 
girl both called Nippis&, and I came across a little 
girl whose parents knew her by the burdensome title 
of Atataksoak (grandfather) ! 

The Christian Eskimos who people the Labrador 
coast to-day have proper baptismal names, mostly 
Biblical, such as Moses, Laban, Thomas, Miriam, 
Sarah, and so on. This habit of choosing Bible 
names seems a very fitting one among a people 
reclaimed from heathenism; it is a constant witness 
and reminder of the change they profess and of the 
God they serve. And I like those old Bible names 
that I met among the Eskimos, for the people steer 
clear of the long and difficult names, and choose 
those that are simple and dignified and easy to 

I can well imagine that the large assortment of 
Samuels and Labans and Michaels and Jonathans 
to be found along the coast used to lead to some 
confrision, and that is the reason why the Mission 

ordained some years ago that the heads of the various 



families should choose distinctive surnames. And I 
can imagine, too, that the business of choosmg 
caused a lot of deep cogitation in those Eskimo 
minds, and a lot of scratching of heads and rumpling 
of hair. Some men solved the difficulty by doubling 
their Christian names, like Laban Laband, and 
Josef Josef§ ; . others chose Eskimo words, such as 
Sillit (a grindstone), which is the surname of our 
Okak organist, and Kakkarsuk (a little mountain), 
or Ikkiatsiak (a shirt). Some adopted the name of 
their occupation, like Illiniartitsijok (the school 
teacher) and Igloliorte (the house builder) — ^the 
latter being a man's polite way of referring to his 
work as village coffin-maker. 

Others went further afield in their search. One 
happy-fstced fellow invented a new word ; he called 
himself Atsertat&k, ** because," he said, ** that is like 
the noise that the little birds make, and we are as 
happy as a family of little birds." 

Some chose ordinary EngUsh names which they 
had heard among the schooner folk, and spelt them 
in extraordinary Eskimo ways, like Braun and Grin ; 
and others honoured the missionaries by adopting 
their names. One of the most dignified families in 
Hebron goes by the name of *^ Mess " ; and I can only 
think that here the man chose what he thought an 
absolutely unique and unhackneyed Eskimo surname 
from the lettering on the top of a barrel of Prime 
Mess Fork standing in the passage of the Mission 

So the Eskimos got their surnames, and are 
handing them down from the last generation to this. 

The Eskimo mother is not a stay-abed person; 
she is quite, ready to bring her baby to church for 



its christening on the third or fourth day of its life. 
In fact, I have seen a mother bring her baby on the 
very day of its birth, explaining her hurry by sajring 
that codfish were plentiful, and her husband really 
could not stay in the village any longer, but must 
leave at once for the fishing camp. There is not 
as a rule, much trouble about choosing a name: 
some relative or other is sure to be anxious to have 
an Attitsiak (namesake), and he or she is honoured 
if it be possible. A few years ago one of our 
numerous Abias was on the point of becoming a 
grandfather, and he obtained a promise £rom his 
son and daughter-in-law that the child should be 
named after him. Unfortunately, as it happened, 
the baby was a girl; and, to his great disappoint- 
ment, the fond grandfather foimd that his own name 
was unsuitable. But the young parents put their 
heads together, and planned a splendid way of 
overcoming the difiiculty : the old man should have 
his namesake; so they called the child Sopia, the 
Eskimo version of Sophia and the nearest to Abia 
that a girl's name could be, and Sopia she is. 

It struck me as an odd custom that a woman who 
marries a widower should give her first child the name 
of her husband's late wife, but so the custom often is. 

If there are no relatives or friends who parti- 
cularly want a namesake, there are plenty of Bible 
characters whose names can be used ; and nowadays 
some of the great names firom history or from public 
life are to be heard in daily use among the Eskimos. 

The prcmunciation is sometimes quaint, and the 

names may be almost unrecognisable — Pita for 

Bertha, and Edua for Edward, for example — but that 

is only the way they have struck the Eskimo ear. 



Another characteristic custom among Eskinio 
parents is that, when one of their children has died, 
they will almost certainly call the next arrival by 
the same name. I have even known the queer name 
of Ananias handed down from boy to boy in this 
way, in order, as the young parents said, that 
the child's grandfather might have an Attitsiak. 
<' Ananias I" I said. '^What an awful name for a 
baby 1 " « Aha,'* said the father, « but it is not after 
Ananias the liar, but after the good Ananias, who 
gave Saul back his sight.'' 

I remember one young couple who were unable 
to settle on a name. There were so many eligible 
namesakes that they could not choose one without, 
as it were, snubbing the others. They carried their 
perplexity to the missionary. He, wise man, took 
a safe course. " My own name is Henry," he said. 
** I shall be very pleased if you will call the baby 
after me; and I hope that everybody else will be 
pleased, too." "Piovok" (it is good), they said; 
" his name shall be Henry." 

Now comes the real Eskimo touch : little Henry 
failed to thrive ; he pined away as so many Eskimo 
babies do, and died. 

During the following year the parents were con- 
soled by the birth of another boy; and without 
hesitation they named him Henry after the little 
Henry they had lost. 

Only very few of the Eskimos have more than 

one name given in baptism ; the people seem to be 

well satisfied that one name is enough ; but I have 

known cases where parents who have lost several 

babies one after the other give the latest arrival two 

names. I wondered whether away at the back of 



their minds they have the old superstition that two 
names give the child a better chance of living. 

As I sit, pen in hand, looking back over those 
fascinating years in Okak, there come to my mind 
pictures upon pictures of the Eskimo children at their 
play ; and I think again, how true it is that the play- 
time years of childhood are a preparation for the 
active work of grown-up life. " The child is father 
to the man" is a saying that holds true of the 
£skimos even more than of most peoples. The 
£skimo baby is bom to live an Eskimo life ; the boy 
^vill grow up to be a hunter like his father ; the girl 
^will be a mother some day, busy over the clothing 
and the sealskins and the bootmaking; and the in- 
herited aptitude for the ordinary work of an Eskimo 
life shows itself and shapes itself in the children's 
games. I have seen the girls playing at ** shop," and 
the boys playing at '' rounders " with a rag ball, but 
these are games that they have learnt from the mis- 
sionaries' children, mere interludes in their ordinary 

An Eskimo girl plays at being mother, just as 
girls do all the world over, and there is generally a 
baby brother or sister to lend reality to the play. 
The real mother does not bother much about the 
baby if there are big sisters to look after it. 

If there is no baby to be nursed, the girls playv 
with dolls. I suppose there have been dolls among 
the Eskimos from time immemorial — doUs of stone 
or bone, scraped and scrubbed iato shape with hard 
flint stones ; dolls of wood, with wide*eyed, staring 
faces, carved after the Eskimo cast with high cheek- 
bones and broad, fiat noses ; and dolls nondescript, 

mere bundles of rags, or rather of sealskin scraps, 



tied with thongs at waist and neck, and with features 
only visible to the fond little make-believe mother. 

But I am encroaching on the unknown things of 
the Eskimo past: wood and sealskin moulder and 
perish : time crumbles them to dust ; and no visible 
proof of such dolls remains— excepting the inborn 
skill that the Eskimos have in making and dressing 

Some of the little girls are the proud owners of 
flaxen-haired dollies from the English shops, but noiost 
of them are content with the native article, whittled 
from a stick of firewood by a fond father ; but what- 
ever sort of doll it be, the little mother dresses it in 
Eskimo clothes. I have seen the chUdren sitting on 
the floor, planning and chattering, cutting out clothes 
for their dolls after the unchanging pattern, making 
dickys and trousers with a due eye to the economy 
of cloth, and learning, all unconsciously, to cut and 
make the real clothes. By daytime the doll is an 
Eskimo baby, poked feet first into its little mother's 
hood, and marched from side to side of the hut or 
among the houses in the village : and, if she does not 
know that she is watched, the little girl will put on 
all the serious air of motherhood, and sway her body 
to and fro, hushing and humming to get the fractious 
baby to sleep. At night the child undresses her 
doll, and lays it to rest on a scrap of reindeer skin 
spread on a toy bedstead of boards, and covers it 
with a gay quilt, and leaves it to sleep while she 
clambers into her own wooden bed and pulls her own 
reindeer skin or patchwork counterpane over her. It 
is the little girl's chief game, the serious game of 
learning to be grown up. 

The boys are playing the same game in their own 



way, but it always seemed to me that there is vastly 

more fun and frolic in a boy's life. One of the most 

fascinating relaxations of our long winter was to watch 

the boys at play. Every day we could hear their 

shouts as they romped and tumbled in the snow* 

They rolled huge snowballs, and hollowed them out 

and hid in them ; they built proper little beehive snow 

huts, and joined them by tunnels under the snow ; 

and, more than anything else, they sledged and slid 

down the hills. There was a steep slope beside my 

window, where the drifting snow had filled the bed of 

the stream, and this was the great sledging-place. I 

watched them with a good deal of trepidation as they 

careered down on little wooden runners strapped to 

their feet — ^miniature ski, whittled from a stick of 

the family firewood — but I never heard of an accident. 

However &st they were going they seemed able to 

dodge the lumps in the path, and avoided collisions 

by twisting round in a sharp curve. If they fell at 

all, they always seemed to tumble into a snowdrift, 

and picked themselves up and shook their shaggy 

heads, and tramped up the hill again shouting with 

laughter. Sometimes they tried the less exciting 

forms of tobogganing, dragging out little sledges 

made for one, and built after the Eskimo pattern with 

the cross-pieces bound with thongs to the runners, 

and bumped madly down the hill ; or a party of boys 

and girls joined at one of the big travelling sledges, 

yelling and laughing, and shoving one another ofi* 

into the snow ; but the boys preferred their sliding 


The rush and rumble of the runners on the hard 

snow was a regular feature of winter life ; and on the 

dull days, when the wind roared and the snow drove 



pelting against the window panes, I quite missed the 
merry noise. Sometimes there was a louder din than 
usual, and this generally meant that four or five were 
huddled together on a big sealskin for want of a 
proper sledge, clinging to one another and roaring 
with the delight of a new sensation. The sealskin 
seemed to slide easily enough when the hair was 
right way on, but it twisted and lurched over the 
lumps in the track and ended by turning wrong way 
on and spilling its passengers into a snowdrift. 

I have even seen the little rascals sliding down 
the hills without anything at all in the shape of a 
sledge, trusting to the wearing qualities of their 
sealskin clothes; and sometimes I have seen in- 
dignant mothers pounce round the corner and drag 
their bright-eyed urchins off to less destructive 

Sometimes a man's first present to his son is a toy 

whip, with a lash five or six feet long, and children 

hardly out of their babyhood crawl about the floor 

shouting at imaginary dogs and dealing vicious 

smacks at them. Out of doors the boys play with 

full-sized whips, and it is marvellous to see how 

cleverly the little fellows wield the thirty feet of 

lash. They set an empty tin on a hummock of ice 

and flick it off time after time from the Aill length of 

the whip ; or two of them wage a hot battle, each 

trying to entangle the other's lash. But whips are 

only accessories to the great game of sledge-driving, 

and an Eskimo boy's most constant plaything is — 

the dog. The men always hand the puppy dogs 

over to the boys ; it is a training for both boy and 

dog, for the boy uses all the tricks and mannerisms 

that he has seen his father use in driving the big sledge, 



and the unwilling puppy is compelled to make a 
trial of harness. 

If there is a little sledge to be had, so much the 
better; the boy can sit upon it and enjoy all the 
delights of real travelling ; if he has no sledge, he 
harnesses the pup to a block of ice, which does very 
well for a makeshift. These boys are wonderfuUy 
keen teachers; they have all the thoroughness of 
the trained Eskimo hunter ; and only one who has 
tried to drive a team of Eskimo dogs can know what 
a stock of patience and perseverance the child must 
have to teach the puppy to keep its trace tight and 
to know and obey the words of command. Most of 
the boys are wise enough to train one'^puppy at a time ; 
but I once saw a big hulking lad trying to teach 
a team of three, and naturally enough the three were 
hardly ever all on their legs at the same time. 
While one lay down to whine and whistle the others 
would wander off in opposite directions to the extent 
of their traces, and, finding themselves fast, they too 
would lie down and whistle just as the boy had per- 
suaded the other to move on. The experiment was 
not a success, for after a time the lad got angry, and 
there seemed to be more temper than teaching in the 
thrashing he gave those poor pups. Of course every 
boy's ambition is to drive full-grown dogs, but when 
that day comes his playtime is over, for he must be 
off with the sledge to fetch firewood or seals. For 
sheer merriment there is nothing to beat the sledge- 
game without dogs, when six or seven of the boys 
slip the harness on their own shoulders and race away 
with the sledge, wheeling this way and that at the 
conunand of their driver. They enter most heartily 

into the fun, crossing from one place to another in 



the team, just as dogs do, snapping and yelping and 
whining and tugging to be on the move every time 
the driver calls a halt 

Whatever game it be, you may be sure that 
they are playing it thoroughly, even though it be 
only the mischievous game of walking in the water 
and getting their boots wet. Mothers and £athers 
only wink at these water*pranks ; the boys are 
growing strong and hardy, and that is a great thing 
for a hunter ; and, after all, their mischief is never 

Springtime provides the most exciting game of 
the whole year, when the ice breaks, and the tides 
that come oozing up the beach bring great pans and 
little fiat pieces floating shorewards. 

A floatmg piece of ice makes a splendid raft, to 
Eskimo ways of thinking, and I have seen crowds of 
our Okak boys standing in ones and twos on these 
very unstable punts, and moving along by paddling 
with their hands in the water or prodding at the 
bottom with poles. The favourite idea is to put a 
boy on a big ice-pan and shove him away into deep 
water, and then, after leaving him helpless for a suit- 
able time, to scramble and pole along to rescue him. 
Sometimes a dog is pressed into service to play this 
Robinson Crusoe sort of r6le ; but the dog generally 
considers itself in real danger, and does not wait for a 
formal rescue ; on the contrary, it takes matters into 
its own hands (or paws), and after a time of terrified 
whining slips miserably into the water and swims 

I watched one bold spirit among the boys who 
had found a long and narrow piece of ice that struck 
him as a suitable kajak. He tried hard to stand on 



it, but it was too wobbly, and time after time he 
only just escaped a ducking by great agility ; at last 
he squatted on it tailorwise, balancing himself with 
his long two-handed ** pautik " (paddle), and steered to 
and firo among the floating ice with all the skill and 
grace of the practised kajak man. 

After the ice has broken and gone, the Eskimo 
boy becomes a sailor. He borrows a boat, and 
hoists the sail, and fares forth before the wind for 
the sheer joy of beating back against it. It some- 
times seemed a reckless game, for I have seen little 
fellows of six and seven, with a calico dicky hoisted 
on an oar to catch the wind, tacking to and fro 
against a breeze that made the little boat heel over 
on its side ; but they are knowing fellows, and very 
rarely come to grief in spite of their daring. 

The mastery of a boat seems to be another of 
their inborn gifts ; indeed, one of our very occasional 
visitors at Okak told me that among the many 
people he had seen he had never met with boatmen 
to excel the Eskimos. 

If the wind drops, the boys use the oars, and use 

them strongly, too: it seems hardly believable, but 

mere babies have the knack of rowing. Little 

Abraha, next door to us, was often on the water 

by himself before he was three, standing up because 

his legs were too short for him to get a grip if he 

sat, and tugging away at the pair of little oars. It 

is strange to me that these children do not learn to 

swim ; they are on the water every day throughout 

the sumnur, and dabbling in it when they are not 

on it, andryet only a few can swim a stroke. It 

is the only way in which their childish energy seems 

wasted, though probably swimming does not strike 

97 o 


the Eskimo as a neoessaiy accomplishment. In all 
their games the children are training hand and eye, 
and learning things that will be useful some day: 
and, above all, the Eskimo boy likes to feel himself 
a hunter. 

He makes a crossbow out of any bit of wood 
that he can find — a stare of the family flour barrel 
answers remarkably well — and goes out to shoot 
birds. His weapon is not a formidable one, and he 
does very little destruction; but, sometimes, when 
the tame Uttle snow buntings are fluttering about, 
gathering for their flitting in the late autumn or 
just arriving in the early spring, the little crossbow 
answers well to the steady little hand and keen 
^e, and, though it seems cruel to think of it, the 
Eskimos have little birds for dinner. Bojts of 
thirteen or fourteen go up the valleys with real 
guns, hunting hares and ptarmigan; but this is 
serious work, for powder and shot are too precious 
to be wasted on mere play. 

A boy came to our door one day, and asked for 

an empty meat-tin. A few minutes later I saw a 

lot of them with harpoons, enjoying an imaginary 

seal hunt with the meat tin for quarry. They had 

flung it into a big pool left by the tide, and were 

taking turns at spearing it. They flung their heavy 

harpoons, and splashed through the water to fetch 

them, amid a chorus of triumph or derision according 

to their skilL Some of them were able to '< kiU " 

the tin every time, but the smaller ones found the 

harpoon too heavy; the inborn skill was there, for 

one little fellow had a toy spear of his own, and 

was flinging it like a thorough artisL 

So these little hunters leain to be men. It has 



been the same ever since the Eskimos were known ; 
far back in the old heathen days it was the same ; 
the child was a prospective hunter. As I wandered 
on the headlands that jut into the sea from the 
heights of Okak Island I found many an old heathen 
grave, with the mouldering weapons and the moss- 
grown pots laid beside the mouldering bones; and 
I foimd the children's graves among the rest, with 
the tiny toy lamp and cooking-pot and the toy 
harpoon placed beside the child when they laid 
him away in his heap of stones above the frozen 

And to-day» when the Eskimos are a Christian 
nation, touched by the finger of civilisation, the 
children, boys and girls, are spending their playtime 
in fitting themselves for the hard life that is their 

But nowadays life is not all play, though it be 
playing at work. During the months of winter, 
when the people are grouped at the Mission stations, 
there are r^fular sdiool hours for the children. I 
walked in one day at Okak when Benjamin was 
drilling arithmetic into the heads of a score of 
bright-eyed little Eskimos, and the picture of that 
Eskimo school class is one of the most vivid of my 
many pictures of Labrador life. 

''What is four times four?'' said Benjamin. 

The little eyes stared, and the little mouths opened, 

and the little fingers began to count under the 

shadow of the desk. Benjamin made it easier. 

'* I saw four sledges," he said. There was a general 

heave of interest : Benjamin was going to tell them 

a story. They shuffled their feet and elbows, and 

settled down to listen. ''I saw four sledges: they 



were coining round the bend from the sealing-place. 
Each sledge had four dogs to pull it. How many 
dogs were there, gathered all together ? " 

That made thinking easy; the little brains had 
got something familiar to work upon; there was 
a picture of sledges in their minds, and like a flash 
came the answer, *^ Sixteen dogs — ^they are sixteen." 
'* Yes," said Benjamin, ^^ four times four makes six- 
teen; don't forget." The little faces were serious 
again: it was not much of a story, after all; but 
they had learnt something without expecting it. 
Wise man, Benjamin; he was an Eskimo child 
himself once, and has had a careful training from 
the missionaries; he has leamt to present things 
in a way that the Eskimo mind can grasp. After 
a few more exercises with the table-book I saw 
the little eyes becoming restless; thoughts were 
beginning to wander; and Benjamin called for a 
change. Shock-headed little Moses fetched the 
books out of the cupboard, and handed them round, 
and the chubby faces brightened again. 

Benjamin annoimced a psalm, and the little 
fingers grew busy as they turned the pages; and 
then I saw first one boy and then another stand 
up to spell through a verse. It was really wonderful 
to watch the eager way in which they pursued the 
alarming strings of letters that stretched from margin 
to margin, and gathered them into syllables under 
Benjamin's guidance, and made out the proper 
meaning. When the psalm was finished Moses 
collected the books ; then the children sang a hymn 
and ran out to romp in the snow. 




Birthdays — ^A Hard-working People — Joshua the Ivory- 
Carver — Clothing and Cleanliness — Old Age 

ONE little family custom that has gained a finn 
place in the hearts of the Eskimos is the cele- 
bration of birthdays. 

This appeals to their sense of the picturesque, 
and a birthday is never allowed to slip by without 
some little attempt at marking the day. What the 
number of years may be makes no difference ; elderly 
folks are just as fond as the children of the tokens 
that make the day a special one ; and Eskimos are 
not people who are shy of letting their ages be 
known ; indeed, a fiftieth birthday is a time of special 

Many a time I have gone into houses and found 
decorations of moss and green leaves, or coloured 
paper when there are no leaves, fastened upon the 
walls, and as likely as not the number of the person's 
years worked in moss or wool and hung up like a 
wreath for all to admire ; and I have shaken hands 
with men and women — aye, and babies too, for the 
babies must be noticed — and have said, *^ Your birth- 
day, eh ? how many years are you ? " which is the very 
height of Eskimo politeness. Friends go running 
into the house to offer good wishes; there is food 
for those who care to eat — seal meat or codfish for 
certain, and maybe a hunk of home-made dough 

plentifully besprinkled with currants. 



They are great times, these birthdays ; but there 
is nothing riotous about them. The dances and 
orgies of heathen days are forgotten, and instead you 
may hear the sound of smging. Many a tune have 
I passed along the village in the dark of the evening 
and have heard the charming sound from some little 
hut ; the old familiar hymn tunes sound very sweet 
in the loneliness of Labrador. First one voice, then 
another, rises above the balanced harmony; and I 
have stood listening, with a queer lump in my throat, 
as verse followed verse and hymn followed hymn; 
and I have known that this was the family gathering 
that brings the Eskimo birthday to a dose. 

There is much that is pleasant in the memory of 
life among these Eskimo hunters. In spite of tJieir 
thoughtlessness, their sometimes unreasonable de- 
mands, their excitability, their proneness to quarrel, 
in spite of their repulsive habits, and the occasional 
glimpses that I got of their native distrust of people 
from other lands, there is a warm spot in my heart 
for the Eskimos. In my memory of them the good 
qualities overbalance the bad. But in spite of the 
fascination of hfe in Labrador, I do my utmost in 
this book to write of the Eskimos exactly as I found 
them, and I believe my picture of them to be a plain 
and unvarnished one. 

One of the most winning things about the 
Eskimos is their very simplicity; so simple and 
direct they are that at times they can be too con- 
fiding* They speak slowly, and seem to weigh their 
words. On the other hand, they have the gift of 
graphic and fluent speech, and can describe their 
doings with thrilling gestiures and telling emphasis 

when they choose. But they must get warmed to 



their subject; a mere question will not set them 

going. I thought that tiiey must have a great fund 

of anecdote and adventure ; and so they have, if they 

only knew it. I imagined that a question would 

start the hunter on a long recital of hairbreadth 

escapes and thrilling races after runaway dogs, of 

fights with polar bears, and lonely nights among the 

wolves in the woods. But no ; these adventures and 

escapes are commonplace to them ; so much a part 

of the Eskimo life that they are passed over as too 

trivial to notice. I heard from an old missionary 

that Abia, my next-door neighbour, had been in his 

youth the strongest man in Okak, strong enough to 

kill a dog with a single blow of the whip from the 

full length of the thirty-feet lash. And I used to 

put leading questions to Abia, such as — ** I suppose 

you sometimes met bears when you went to your 

fox-traps ? " or " You were a very great hunter, were 

you not ? " but Abia's mind was on the present ; he 

had no room in it for reminiscences ; and he would 

say, ** Yes, I used to be a great hunter, but I cannot 

hunt now, I am old. My son Samuel can hunt, and 

he is now gone after seals. I have been chopping 

firewood to-day." 

And they can talk furiously. They are very 

excitable, and fly into a passion over a trifle. 

But though they are quickly aroused, they are 

just as easily appeased. A man may be in a terrible 

temper, and with his wild eyes and tumbled hair and 

waving arms make a very threatening picture as he 

jabbers and shouts ; but a few minutes afterwards he 

is friendly and smiling again, bearing no malice. 

I heard very little of family feuds or long-drawn 

quarrels while I was among the Eskimos: the 



nearest to any such thing was the case where a man, 
long years before, had stolen an axe from another 
man's house, and the descendants of these two men 
used to remind each other of the episode whenever 
they happened to have a quarrel in hand. When 
they do quarrel it is next to impossible to avoid 
hearing them, for they stand out of doors, pouring 
forth voluble streams of grammatical language by 
turns, at the top of their voices. The horrible old 
heathen blood-feuds have gone, and a peaceful and 
friendly tone, both among themselves and towards 
strangers, is one of the characteristics of the Eskimo 
people to-day. 

There is just a little reserve with strangers, but I 
found as I went in and out among them that their 
shyness wore off, and I was able to watch them at 
their work and learn their characteristic ways. I 
was rather surprised at first to find so many of the 
men asleep in the daytime ; and when I went into a 
hut and saw the father of the family, a lusty middle- 
aged Eskimo hunter, sprawling snoring over a box, 
or curled up on the bed or the floor, I could not 
help thinking him a lazy fellow. This is the usual 
first impression. But I know that the Eskimo is a 
hard-working man : if he is asleep in the daytime he 
has earned his rest by trudging through the soft 
snow of the woods to his fox-traps, or driving his 
dogs to fetch seals. 

The Eskimos are a hard-working people, but 

they have their lazy side: they are apt to dawdle 

over work to which they are not accustomed. I had 

to employ a good many men at carpentering and 

building, and I found that they needed almost 

constant supervision if the work was to go ahead 



with any speed. Even with supervision the work 
came foreign to their nature, and more than once on 
fine mornings the workmen failed to turn up, and I 
learnt later in the day that they had been tempted 
by the beautiful weather or by a report of seals in the 
bay, and had gone for a change in the form of a day's 
hunting. Women scrape sealskins or sew boots from 
morning till night ; but set them to pile the firewood 
to dry on the hillside, and they sit and chatter, or 
even, some of them, fSEdl asleep, unless you keep an eye 
upon them. But I could never call the Eskimos lazy 
after seeing them trot forty miles or more in a day, or 
sit rowing for twenty-four hours at a stretch, or work 
like Trojans the whole day through to let the Mission 
ship catch a favourable tide for sailing. 

No, my impression of them is that they are a 
hard-working people On stormy days the men sit 
at home, smoking and talking; they make nets or 
plait strips of walrus hide into dog- whips, or do any 
bits of work that may be necessary ; they may even 
be busy carving ivory. If there is no work to be 
done, they sprawl and chat and smoke and slumber. 

Ivory carving is practically a lost art among the 
Eskimos. For one thing, walrus tusks are too scarce 
since the walruses have been scared] away northward, 
and the people need all they can get for the making 
of harpoon heads; for another thing, time is too 
precious nowadays, and there is not a good enough 
market for the quaint little figures of men and 
sledges and birds, and all the animals that an Eskimo 
knows ; so it comes about that the modem Eskimo 
young man does not bother to learn ivory carving. 

There is a little figure standing on my table as I 

write, a tiny white bird, and it carries me back to the 



day when I ^rst landed at Okak. It was Joshua 
who brought it ; a short, squat figure of a man, with 
a great mop of coarse black hair and a shaggy black 
beard — Joshua Nujaliak (the bearded one), called after 
his beard because beards are a rarity among the 
Eskimos, better known as Joshua the Ivory-carver« 
That little bird was Joshua's ** meeting present " : he 
gave it the name himself, and, although I have heard 
of parting presents, this was the first meeting present 
in the course of my experience. ^* Meeting present," 
said Joshua; *^me come say hew-de-do"; and 
though my knowledge of the language was at that 
time limited to the single word of greeting 
''Aksunai," Joshua's smattering of English helped 
the hour along famously. 

He described his carving work to me, mostly 
in dumb show, making jags in the air with his arm 
to represent a saw, and rubbini; the imaginary work 
with \ stumpy fioger. to thTicompZS of . 
grating noise in his throat, which, 1 suppose, meant 
the file. 

** No plenty aivek (walrus)," he said, holding two 
fingers to his mouth to represent the tusks, so that I 
might not misunderstand him ; ** all gone bye'm bye 
— ^no more tusks to carve." 

Poor Joshua did not live to see many more 
aiveks ; he died in the big influenza epidemic of 1904. 
My last meeting with him before I saw him on his 
deathbed was in July, when a schooner, bound for 
Hebron, ran into Okak Bay to find a pilot. 

After a little cogitation Joshua was chosen ; he 

knew the way along the coast, and he knew enough 

English to make his meaning plain ; so off he went 

to get ready. Half-an-hour later I watched him 



stalk majestically down the jetty, clad in all his 

finery. I do not mean that he had donned his 

sealskin boots and trousers, and the special white 

''dicky" that he kept for church; no, the office 

of pilot appealed to him as demanding something 

extraordinarily fine, and so he marched proudly 

aloD£^, dad [in hob-nailed boots and striped trousers, 

with a big flapping frock coat hanging loosely from 

his shoulders, and his long black hair crowned by 

an ancient chimney-pot hat. 

Under ordinary circumstances he would instinc- 

tively have seized an oar; but on this splendid 

occasion he sat bolt upright in the stem of the boat, 

occasionally clutching at his beloved hat lest the 

gusts of wind should snatch it fi*om him, and allowed 

the schooner's crew to take him on board. 

Good-hearted, simple-minded Joshua, he did the 

piloting all right ; but he took to his bed soon after 

he got home, and we had to bid him good-bye. 

I lost a good friend when Joshua died ; and Labrador 

lost the best of the old Eskimo ivory-carvers. 

The art is passing ; from lack of tusks and the 

call of the hunt less and less time is given to this 

interestmg pursuit, and every year sees fewer and 

fewer of the quaint little figures sent home for sale : 

the native skill is there, and only needs rousing, as I 

have proved by getting some carvings done in wood 

and soft stone. 

No matter at what time of the day I went into the 

Eskimo houses, the women always seemed to be busy 

with the sealskins ; but, for some of them at least, 

there are times when they put the skins aside and 

ply their needles on softer stuff ; and they turn out 

some very neat and pretty embroidery to ornament 



their Sunday dickjrs. Their taste lies in the direc- 
tion of brilliant colours and startling mixtures ; and 
I was amused to find that Deborah, our best needle* 
woman at Okak, had mixed a few glaring pink flowers 
among the delicate pattern that she was working in 
art shades of green and brown at the order of an 
English visitor. 

Deborah thought that the pattern was vastly 
improved by these vivid dabs of pink ; and, after all, 
the result of her quaint ideas was characteristically 

Whatever work they may be doing in their homes, 

it is quite likely that the women have discarded their 

skirts, and are clothed in blanket trousers, as the old 

style was. It struck me as a sensible sort of dress 

for them, better suited to the work they have to do 

than skirts which get draggled and oil-stained ; and 

yet, I suppose, the reason that they so seldom appear 

m pubUc in their trousers is that they are afraid of 

being laughed at. Probably shyness has led to their 

adoption of the skirt, for they are far more conmion 

at the southern stations, which touch the fringe of 

civilization, than at Okak and the villages further 

north, where there are still women who go about 

their daily work in trousers. I had no difficulty in 

persuading them to be photographed in their national 

dress ; they are, in their inmost hearts, proud of it, 

and save a specially fine outfit for festival days in 

church. When I went to take a picture of old Ruth 

I had the good fortune to get a snapshot of another 

old Eskimo habit. Ruth was highly flattered at the 

idea of a photograph, and became quite excited about 

it ; in fact, her face was perspiring so with the fluster 

into which she had worked herself, that before doffing 




her skirt for the picture she wiped her face — and 
pocketed her handkerchief in her boot. That is the 
Eskimo pocket 1 Big parcels go into the hood, 
alon^ with the baby ; but the woman's boot is the 
hiding-place for all her smaller treasures. I have 
seen hymn-books, biscuits, pipes, bits of bead- work or 
sealskin pockets for sale, wools, rolls of cloth, money 
— ^all sorts of things, stuffed into the convenient wide 
leg of the boot. 

It is no easy matter to write so as to give an 
adequate idea of the stage at which the Christian 
Eskimos have arrived in the things of cleanliness. 
The heathen were dirty by choice ; or rather, they 
Tvere dirty because they knew no better, and because 
they were content to remain so. Things have 
changed since heathen days ; lessons have been 
taught ; and my life in Okak gave me some small hint 
of the difficulties and the prejudice that the old pioneer 
missionaries had to face in making a beginning. 

There is now a foundation to build on; the 
children of to-day are bom of parents who have 
learnt some of the lessons ; they have from their birth 
some of the ambition to be neat and clean which is 
so clear a mark of civilisation. I cannot hold the 
^Eskimos up as a cleanly race ; they have an immense 
amount to leam; they are still far behind true 
civilisation in habits of cleanliness and sanitation ; 
but this I can say, they are far, far ahead of their 
heathen brothers. 

It may, I think, be fairly said of the Eskimos to- 
day that they keep themselves and their clothes re- 
markably clean considering the nature of their work. 
In the north, where no trees grow, and seal-oil lamps 

provide light and a meagre tinge of warmth for the 



huts, the people look dirty. The huts are small, and 
all the work of skinning and dressing the seals must 
be done in them because out-of-doors ever^rthing 
freezes as hard as stone; and so the work-a-day 
clothes are black and shiny with oiL But by eveiy 
bedside there stands a box, and in that box is a dean 
outfit for Sunday use. I can imagine that that was 
the beginning of the lesson in the hands of those old 
missionaries : ** Come to the House of God neat and 
clean " ; and if any proof were needed of the truth 
of my idea, it could be found in the person of a num 
who died at Nain some three or four years ago. The 
poor fellow was deaf and dumb from birth, and had 
learnt to talk in signs; and his way of saying 
*• Sunday '* was to rub his hands over his fiice — " The 
day on which he washed his face " I 

I found the people using soap and water fairly 
often, and taking a good deal of pride in their appear- 
ance ; in fact, the women and girls are very fSftstidious 
indeed about their hair, and wash and comb it with 
real feminine pride. As for the washing of clothes, 
that they do in their own way. They wet them and 
soap them, and then drop them into the brook and 
trample on them ; and there they used to stand, in 
a pool in the brook just outside my window, tramp- 
lii^ in the shallow water, singing and talking to pass 
the time, and, alas, puffing at their pipes. 

It seems strange that the Eskimos should be 

addicted to so essentially an Indian habit as smoking. 

How did they learn it, and when? Was it the 

" pipe of peace," after one of their old quarrels, that 

started the craving ? Or did they first get it from 

passing vessels? Perhaps so; but who can tell? 

Eskimos and Indians are hereditary foes ; even in my 



Ah Eskimo Woman Scrafim 

:htd net 1 board in ■ lub and ihc won 


time I have seen Eskimos scared at the mention of 
'^ Indian," and when I travelled southward my drivers 
once asked me in awestruck voices, ** Shall we see the 
AUat" (Indians)? 

However it be, there it is ; the Eskimos smoke. 
Men and women alike — ^aye, and unless my eyes have 
deceived me, children too, in a furtive way — ^all puff 
with real relish ; though happily the women are shy 
of allowing themselves to be seen with the pipe 
between their teeth. 

In my visits to the Eskimo households I could 
not fSEul to be struck by the patience and devotion 
with which the people care for their aged ones. The 
old man or woman, feeble and past work, is sure of 
a home with a married son or daughter or other 
relative, and if the poor old body has no relations, 
there is enough hospitality in the hearts of the 
poorest of the people to make them open their 
homes to the needy. 

I found age a very deceptive thing. " Sixty-two ** 
might be the answer from a bowed old %ure crouch- 
ing over the stove — I would have guessed twenty / 
years more than that. The fact is that the Eskimo / 
wears out fast ; after fifty he begins to decline, and | 
few live long after sixty. I have known a few over if 
seventy, and the people told me with wonderment 
about an old woman who lived to be eighty-two, 
and who worked to the last ; but these are great 
rarities, and it must be a unique thing in one's 
lifetime to meet with an Eskimo great-grandmother. 
These very old people nearly always seem to be 
active to the last; they have an unusual store of 
vitality ; and they die in harness, dropping out like 

those who are too tired to go any further, and passing 



away without illness or suffering. They are 
always those who have clung the most closely to 
their own native foods, and can always speak of 
having been mighty hunters once upon a time. 

Their activity and endurance are remarkable* 
Women who are too old and toothless to chew^ 
the boot-leather can still scrape the sealskins, 
perhaps with a skill that the younger women lack : 
if they are too blind and feeble to scrape, they can 
sit behind a wall of snow upon the sea-ice, and jig 
for the sleepy rock-cod through a hole. ''Are you 
cold?" I asked old Klara. She laughed in her 
shrill old way : '' I am an Eskimo/' she said. Old 
Abia, my white-haired neighbour from the hut under 
the shadow of the hospital wall, was a most energetic 
old fellow. He used to make me anxious for 
his safety. One morning I saw him go off over 
the ice, dragging a small sledge. I thought he 
had gone to gather sticks along the sledge track, 
and that he would be home in a couple of hours. 
He was not at the evening meeting, however, and 
a meeting in church was a thing that he never 

I searched for his white head among the rows 
of black ones, but he was not there. His son 
Samuel was in the choir all right ; I could hear his 
powerful tenor when we sang ; so I waited for him 
after the meeting and asked '^Abia, nanneki?" 
(where is Abia ?). 

A-a-tsuk " (I don't know), answered Samuel. 

'* Where did he go this morning ? " 

^* A-a-tsuk." 

^* Had we not better go and look for him ? " 

'* A-a-tsuk," said Samuel, with a grin ; ** kujanna 



(never mind) — the old man is all right — he is an 
Eskimo ! '' 

Then Samuel went home to bed. 

Old Abia tm*ned up smiling the next afternoon, 
dragging a sledge-load of trout behind him. He had 
suddenly bethought himself of a lake among the 
hilLs where he used to catch trout. He walked the 
ten miles to the frozen lake; jabbed a hole in the 
ice with his ** t6k " (square-headed spear) ; and then 
crouched over the hole dangling a bit of red wool 
in the water, and spearing the trout with his 
'< kakkivak " (trout-spear) as fast as they came within 
reach. Before he was satisfied night had fallen, so 
this hardy old Eskimo of sixty-nine lay down to 
sleep in the open. He woke up fresh and happy 
in the morning, and after another turn at trout- 
spearing he dragged his load home — and thought 
nothing about it ! 



ACakino a Slkdgb — ^My Fibst Slbdoe Journey 

AS soon as the winter was Mdy established I 
x\. ^^^^g^^ to think of visiting some of the other 
stations by sledge. With this idea in mind I 
consulted Jerry and Julius, the two men who made 
it their business to fetch our drinking water, and 
asked them about a sledge. There was a respectable- 
looking sledge about the premises, a year or two old, 
maybe, but good enough for us to take on our 
occasional trips about the bay, and I asked the men 
whether this would do for a trip to Hebron. 

They were unanimous and very emphatic. 
^* Piungito&rluk " (it is awfully bad), they said, and 
besought me to let them make me a good sledge. 
" Very well," I told them, ** you shall make me a good 
sledge, and I will take you with me to Hebron." 
They were delighted, beaming and chuckling with 
glee, and could hardly be persuaded to finish filling 
the water tanks, so eager were they to be at work on 
the new sledge. They were prepared to take the 
whole thing in hand, from start to finish, and next 
morning were off to the woods at daybreak in search 
of a big, straight tree for the runners. I happened to 
tell the storekeeper about their objections to the old 
sledge, and he, being a man well used to the ways of 
the Eskimos, smiled rather broadly. ** The sledge is 
not so bad," he said ; '' our postman carried the mails 

to Nain with it last week; but the postman made 



that sledge, and your water-men did not* That 
makes a good deal of difference." 

" Just so," I thoi^ht ; " the Eskimos are like every- 
body else : every man likes his own handiwork the 

In the dark of the evening Jerry and Julius came 
home from the woods, helping the dogs to haul an 
enormous tree stem. I was astonished that such a 
big tree was to be found in Labrador ; but the men 
only smiled. They had been a good many miles 
that day, struggling through the soft snow of a 
sheltered valley that they knew, where the trees are 
shielded from the winds and have managed, in the 
course of centuries, to reach a useful size. 

I think I am right in writing of " centuries " in 
the life of those trees ; for the superintendent of the 
mission. Bishop Martin of Nain, planted a seedling 
fir to celebrate the birth of his first son ; and when I 
saw the tree where it stands in a sheltered nook on 
the hillside at Nain, it was knee high — and that was 
soon after the young man's twenty-first birthday I 

Jerry and Julius got one advantage from using 
Labrador wood for my sledge ; it needed no season- 
ing. " Ay," they said, " there is no wood for sledges 
like the Labrador wood; and that is why the 
Avan^miut (northerners) send to Okak for their 
sledge wood." 

Next morning I foimd them sawing the tree into 

planks; Jerry, being the more learned man, was 

pkying top-sawyer and guidmg the saw, while 

Julius stood imdemeath and knotted his great 

muscles with the power of his pulling. They had a 

workshop all ready close at hand; it consisted of 

two big blocks of frozen snow set about six feet 



apart, and on these they laid the planks to be shaped 
and smoothed. I offered them the use of the 
carpenter's bench in the hospital, but they declined 
the offer with scorn. They were better used to 
their open-air work-bench, and seemed to use the 
tools quite well with their hands cased in thick 
sealskin gloves; at all events, the sledge-making 
went on apace, and each time I went out I found 
them a little further on with it. All the men who 
had' any time to spare were clustered round to 
watch, and, no doubt, to keep up a constant fire of 
comments; but the chatter was always good- 
humoured, and the men seemed to get on the faster 
for it. As my sledge grew under their hands, I 
found that they were making it sixteen feet long, 
and two and a half feet broad. It had twenty-six 
cross-pieces, and never a nail did they use. ** KappS," 
they said, '' nails no good : plenty soon break : seal- 
hide anan&k.'' They set the runners on the blocks, 
and bored holes for the binding : then stood them up 
a couple of feet apart and bound the cross-pieces to 
them, first the fix>nt and back ones, then the middle 
one, and then the others to fill up the spaces. There 
was a gentle upward curve from back to front — to 
make the sledge rise better to the snowdrifts, they 
said ; and the runners were not set quite upright, but 
splayed slightly outwards — ^to keep the sledge from 
slipping sideways; and every bit of the work was 
done with a neatness and exactness that the most 
skilled of carpenters might envy. Jerry and Julius 
may have thought that their sledge was the best 
ever made, but there are frilly a score of men in 
Okak who can build a sledge without a fault, as 

perfect as a sledge can be. 



The runners were shod with strips of iron, a style 
that has quite ousted the old plan of shoeing with 
bone or mud. I have seen a few Eskimo sledges 
with bone runners; the people say that they serve 
better in the soft snow of the springtime ; but mud 
I have never seen, and probably my Okak neighbours 
have forgotten how to use it. The Killinek people 
still fancy it ; they mix clay and moss with water in 
a pot, and plaster it on hot. It freezes instantly, and 
must then be scrubbed to smoothness. It is cheap, 
and that is the only advantage it has over iron ; it is 
so brittle that every collision with a jagged rock 
knocks a bit off, and for this reason the travelling 
man from the Killinek neighbourhood carries a pot 
for mud-boiling among the load on his sledge, and is 
ready to halt at any time on the road and do a job 
of plastering. 

Jerry and Julius screwed the irons on to the 
runners, and sand-papered them till they shone; 
and then, exactly four days after the fetching of 
the tree, they dragged the sledge up to the door 
of the hospital, and left it standing on the snow. 
" We dare not take it indoors,*' they said, " because 
it would warp." 

I admired that handsome new sledge of mine, 

and thought to have a memento of it : I called to 

the crowd of men who had followed it to the door, 

and asked them, '^ Which of you can make me a little 

toy sledge, the likeness of that one ? " They looked 

at one another, and said ^' Atsuk " (I don't know) ; 

but a bustling little fellow asked again what the 

question was, and then came forward saying ^'Uvanga, 

immakka" (I can, probably). I explained what I 

wanted, and he nodded and lit his pipe to help him 




to think. '< This big sledge of mine is sixteen feet 
long," I said ; *' make me a sledge just as many inches 
long, and two and a half inches broad instead of feet» 
then it will be adsingoamarik (the very image)." 

I found him a little box, and he went off to start 
his work. Presently he came back. ** Tukkekan- 
gilak," he said. 

« What is the matter, Efraun ? " 

'^ It is not like an Eskimo sledge." 

^' If you make it sixteen inches by two and a 
half, and three-quarters of an inch high, it will be 
exactly Uke." 

^^Atsuk," said Efraim. However, I persuaded 
him to finish the Uttle sledge, and it stands as an 
ornament in my room to this day ; but Efraim was 
not satisfied. *^ To your eyes it may look all right," 
he said, '^but to the eyes of the People it is all 
wrong. It is too long and narrow" — and that was 
the end of the matter. But I know that it is an 
exact model of my Eskimo travelling sledge, made 
carefully to scale by Efraim's nimble fingers; and 
only the Eskimo sense of proportion is odd 1 

It was in the bitterest of the winter cold that I 

made my first sledge journey. By this time the 

people had invented a name for me; they said my 

own name, '' Tukkekangilak,'' had no meaning — 

which very possibly may be true, though their real 

reason was that they dislike a name that ends in a 

consonant, unless it be a "t" or a "k." I heard 

various references to " Atta " and " Hoddo," which 

were, I suppose, my own name Eskimo-ised; but 

before long these dropped out and I became Aniasi- 

orte, the Pain Hunter. And so, during the last days 

of January, the word went round that Aniasicnrte 



was going to Hebron, and that Jerry and Julius were 
to be the drivers. A goodly number of the people 
made up their minds to go too, and thus it came 
about that I headed a procession of fourteen sledges. 
At the outset I knew nothing about it, for we 
started in pitchy darkness at five o'clock in the 
morning. Julius called it a fine morning, but as far 
as I was concerned it might have been midnight. 
I could see nothing but some bhusk and shadowy 
shapes moving to and fro in the dim glimmer of a 
hurricane lamp, and if it had not been for the spice 
of new excitement I could have wished myself back 
among the blankets. I was well padded with woollens 
and sealskins, but the night air nipped my nose a 
little, and I was glad to keep rubbing it with my 
sealskin glove. 

Julius, like the experienced driver he is, went 
through the list of travelling necessaries to make 
sure that he had got them all aboard, and then told 
me that he was ready to start. 

Immediately hands were thrust towards me from 

all parts of the darkness, and I realised that a huge 

crowd of people had silently collected to watch us 

off, and to shake ourj hands and say ''Aksunai." 

** Aksuse," I shouted ; '' taimak (ready), Julius " ; and 

at the word Jerry sprinted along the track, and 

the dogs went racing after him. The line tightened 

with a jerk, and the sledge started with a bound 

that nearly threw me off. Some good Mend seized 

the hurricane lant^n, and ran along with it to 

show the way among the boulders, but he had to 

be nimble to keep out of the way of the boisterous 

dogs. Sledge dogs, unless they are very tired, are 

always eager to be on the move ; and ours were in 



such a hurry that they tried to take short cuts of 
their own, leaping over great snowdrifts and franti- 
cally straining to climb huge hummocks of ice, 
and we might easily have lost some of them, or at 
least have had some broken harness, if it had not 
been for the willing help of our army of spectators. 
That dash between the hummocks to the sea ice 
was like a nightmare : the flickering lantern, darting 
hither and thither; the dim shapes of men and 
boys rushing about, chasing the unruly dogs; the 
yelping and shouting, with the pad-pad of footsteps 
and the grind of the runners — ^the whole scene comes 
back to me as I write. And all the while the people 
were sticking to the sledge like flies, sitting, standing, 
kneeling, clinging, getting a ride somehow, all in 
a great good humour, and dropping off one by one 
when we reached the sea ice. 
So I got my first send-ofi^. 

We were fairly on the way; and Julius struck 
a match and lit his pipe. In the flicker I got a 
glimpse of his face, all glittering with frost; his 
stubby beard was decorated with icicles, and his 
eyebrows were crusted with frozen snow ; and when 
I passed a hand over my own face, I found that 
I was in the same pUght. Julius was on the watch : 
he leaned over to me and said, ^* Did you wash your 
face this morning ? " 

^* No," said I, " the missionary told me not.** 

"Good,"said Julius, "now yoiu* face will not freeze." 

I shivered to think what would have happened to 

my face if 1 had washed it: as it was, my cheeks 

and chin ached with the cold, and I could not help 

raising a furtive hand from time to time, just to 

make sure that I was not yet frozen. 



By seven o'clock the sky was beginning to 

lighten, and we made our first halt at the famous 

ten-mile point Parkavik (**the meeting-place"). 

There the men disentangled the dogs, which by 

continual crossing over had plaited their traces 

together like the strings of a maypole ; and I thought 

it well to drink some hot coffee. The coffee was 

not hot, although it was in a stone jar wrapped in 

a dogskin, but it was drinkable, which is more than 

I can say for it a few hours later, when it had 

assmned the form of ice-cream — not particularly 

tempting under the cu-cumstances. The drivers 

did not want any: they had taken a good draught 

of water and ,a lump of frozen seal meat before 

starting, in addition to the breakfast of bread and 

meat and weak tea that I had given them, so they 

were content to wait a while. During their tedious 

unravelling of the knotted harness the other sledges 

began to come up, and soon the whole fourteen 

were assembled at Parkavik. We waited until all 

were ready, for the very simple reason that if we 

had started no exertions could have kept the other 

teams still, and so it came about that the starting 

again was by way of being an imposing spectacle. 

My sledge, with the drivers swelling with pride, 

headed the procession along the frozen fiord, and 

the others followed at proper intervals. 

Not the least interesting part of this unique sight 
was the shadow : the sun was just up, and there was 
a marvellous string of spider-legged dogs and top- 
heavy sledges and weird, thin men sharply outUned 
on the pink snow. Travelling was rather more 
pleasant in the sunshine ; the air felt warmer, in spite 

of the forty-three degrees of frost by my Fahrenheit 



thermometer, and I was able to take some notice of 

the doings of the drivers. There was a fiill half mile 

of om* procession, and all the drivers seemed to be 

shouting all the time. It is a habit with them ; they 

feel that the dogs must be told constantly what they 

are to do ; and a driver's work consists very largely 

of an unending repetition of the orders to the dogs. 

" Ouk-ouk-ouk " (go to the right) they say, or " Ra- 

ra-ra-ra-ra " (to the left) ; and if it is neither right 

nor left it is a continual '' Huit-huit-huit " (go straight 

on). The leading dog has a good deal of responsibility 

on its shoulders ; Geshe, my leader, had a trace about 

forty feet long, and needed to be on the alert to pick 

out her driver's voice at that distance. When I 

shouted to her she looked over her shoulder in a 

surprised sort of way, as if to say "Julius is in charge 

of this team : what are you shouting for ? " but when 

Julius murmured a quiet " Ouk," away she curved to 

the right with the whole team wheeling after her, 

until his cry of '' Huit " checked her. Some of the 

men were less favoured than we : I saw one of them 

shortening his leader's trace, and deposing the dog 

by this means from its proud position, while the poor 

brute whined and yelped and whistled as if it were 

having a flogging ; and not a few of the drivers were 

shouting themselves hoarse because their leaders were 

stupid or disobedient or sulky. 

Towards noon a man ahead of us shouted ^< Ah " 

at the top of his voice, and every driver took up the 

cry. All the dogs stopped and lay down vrith one 

accord, and all the drivers were biisily heaving their 

sledges on to one side. It was time to ice the runners 1 

It was a typical Eskimo idea, to do it all together, but 

there was sense in it It would have been practically 



impossible for one sledge to stop while the others 
went on» for the simple reason that the dogs will not 
do it ; besides, the Eskimo is a companionable soul, 
and likes to have all these little things done in 

My drivers fished a sealskin bag from under the 
doubled-up bearsldn on which they had been sitting, 
and after exchanging a few words Jerry went off to 
disentangle the dogs again, while Julius made ready 
to do the icing. He sucked a mouthftil of the luke- 
warm water in the bag and squirted it over the iron 
shoe of each runner, running quickly along as he did 
it and rubbing it smooth with the back of his leather 
glove. The water turned to ice instantaneously at 
the touch of the cold iron, but the men were taking 
no risks— every sledge was turned so that the runners 
were on the shady side, another instance of the natural 
resourcefulness of the Eskimo . Most of the men had 
brought jars or bags of water with them, and the few 
who had not came to borrow from us because we had 
the best supply. The borrower had a very simple 
method of carrying the water : he just filled his mouth 
and ran back to his own sledge, perhaps a hundred 
yards or more. 

Our sledge caravan got rather scattered as the 
day wore on ; in fact, with some of the men who 
had only a few dogs it resolved itself into an earnest 
race to do the sixty miles in the one day. My drivers 
took no notice of their huny, *' Let them go," they 
said, ** we are aU right, we shall get there." 

Just in front of us there was a curious erection in 

the shape of a house on runners, a sort of square tent, 

somewhere about the size of a Punch and Judy show 

only not so tall, built on a sledge. This contained 



the driver's wife, and his idea was that she should sit 

tight and not feel the cold. The idea was, no doubt, 

an excellent one; but it had the disadvantage of 

boxing the lady up in the dark and depriving her of 

all view of the outside world, and consequently she 

was unable to take care of herself properly. We 

came to a boulder-strewn beach, all ice covered, one 

of those places where the dogs try to go fast and are 

constantly getting their traces caught round points of 

ice. Off went the dogs with a rush, and the man 

after them to keep them straight. The sledge had 

nobody to guide it; it ran up the side of a great 

hummock and over it turned. My view of the 

proceedings from twenty yards behind was of a 

sledge upsetting and a heavily-padded and very 

surprised-looking Eskimo matron being somersaulted 

out of the top of her canvas house. She sat on the 

hard snow, gazing ruefully at her sledge as it bumped 

along at a good ten mUes an hour ; but she managed 

to collect her wits sufficiently to pick herself up and 

make a flying leap on to my sledge as it passed her. 

A mile fiu*ther on we came on her husband sitting 

on a lump of ice and puffing unconcernedly at his 

pipe, whUe his dogs enjoyed a rest after their scamper. 

Hebron is admirably placed for a sensational 

arrival The track turns sharply round a juttmg 

point of land and then runs for a straight mile and 

a half over the frozen harbour to the Mission station ; 

consequently the keen-eyed people saw us as soon as 

we came round the point, and a good many of the 

men and bojrs started over the ice at a run to meet 

us, while the rest of the population collected on the 

slope in front of the village to watch. 

From our point of view it was a relief to see the 


Walrus Tusks and Ivory Carvings 

Eskimofp Tbe pidufe show! men, wonivn, &l«JBa, daay m IcftjA, ufeli, ^rdi, ud vJ 
uioxli and iwfi Duula rrom walnu-iroty by the Otnk Eikimoi. 

Found in Hiathbn Graves 

TbdHiIben Eiklau 


houses among the snow and rocks after our cpld day's 
travelling; and to them it was the biggest excite- 
ment of the winter. You can imagine how they 
mrould shout when they first saw our sledge ; the big 
team of dogs and the three men on the sledge would 
be enough to tell them at once that it was a 
Eluropean. Presently we got within sound of their 
shouting ; ** KablundJc, Kablun&k/' they yelled, and 
their outbursts came booming over the ice in the still 
evening air. *^ Amalo, amalo " (another) they roared, 
as each sledge came round the point; and by the 
time we reached them and looked back along the 
track the thirteenth sledge was just in sight, with its 
trotting little mannikin (kiver and its bunch of little 
black dots of dogs, and the excitement was at fever 
pitch. There had never been anything like this 
before. Such a procession! It was a sight to re- 
member ; a long, dull streak across the clean, bright 
snow, alive with a series of crawling dots, the nearest 
easily distinguishable as men and dogs, shouting and 
yelping and racing towards us, the furthest mere 
black specks almost seeming to stand stilL There 
was no mistake about the welcome ; each sledge as 
it came up the slope was pounced upon by a laughing, 
gesticulating mob, who whisked it off, dogs and all, 
towards one or other of the Eskimo houses. 

It is their way of inviting ; seize the guest and 
take him along ; and the boys ran in front of the dogs 
crying ^^ Hau-hau-hau," and leading them on until 
at the sound of "Ah'' they drew up at the proper 

As for myself, I was shaking hands with a 
bearded, frosted man, the Hebron missionary; and 

a score of willing helpers were carrying my luggage 



into the house and rushing back for more, and helping 
to loosen the dogs» and fold up the harness, and dear 
the snow away from the runners, and store everjrthing 
away snug and safe for the night. 

Hebron was a veritable land of dogs. Our pro- 
cession had brought about a hundred and forty to add 
to the already large supply, and in consequence the 
place swarmed with them. By daytime it was not 
so bad ; I {could at all events see my way and avoid 
treading on the sleeping brutes, though it was not 
very comfortable to be persistently followed by a 
dozen or more of the wolfish-looking creatures ; but 
by night it was awful. The dogs sang and snarled 
and fought and held meetings of their own, and 
prowled about in gangs in the moonlight, furtive and 
terrible. I do not suppose the Eskimos noticed the 
extra noise, or, for the matter of that, the extra 
number of doggy slumberers around their doors; 
but I feel pretty certain that the feeding was a matter 
of concern to them. Sledge dogs are ravenously 
hungry when feeding-time comes, and an ordinary 
team can easily polish off the carcase of a seal at one 
meal ; so that, though feeding-time comes only three 
or four times a week, our band of Okak dogs must 
have made a big hole in the Hebron stock of seals. 
Some of the people visited Okak later in the winter ; 
a sort of complimentary return call. I suppose it was, 
though it smacked very much of getting their own 

About noon on the day after my arrival at 

Hebron the fourteenth sledge appeared. The owner 

had been hauling firewood all day on the day before 

we left Okak, and had started the trip with tired 

dogs. He paid for his folly by having to camp at 




** Half Way House," a tumble -down hut thirty 
miles from anywhere, without fire and with nothing 
but; a few scraps of dried fish for food. His poor dogs 
had to go hungry : but they were workers, and came 
trotting up the slope to Hebron in a most business- 
like way. With them came Shergo. 

Shergo was a remarkable character among dogs. 
In the litter of plump black and white pups that 
arrived in the late autumn, mothered by my beauti- 
ful leading dog 6esh£, there was a strange-looking 
little yellow creature which we named Shergo 
(meaning " by-and-by *'). To which of her doggy 
ancestors she harked back, I cannot say; but she 
iTvas an oddity, an utter freak. As soon as she 
could toddle she began to wander. Any team that 
appeared to be starting on a journey would do for 
Shergo, and so she made a good many futile trips 
to and fro with the wood sledges. Once she 
thought the water sledge looked promising, and 
went with that; but came back looking sad and 
wise and disappointed — only three miles to run, and 
a cold and shivery waiting for the tank to be filled, 
and then the three miles home again. 

Shergo was not content to follow behind : no, 
if she choose to go with a team she took her place 
among them, and trotted with a grotesque air of 
determination, as if half the weight were on her bony 
little shoulders. I was not surprised when I saw 
her come trotting into Hebron with the fourteenth 
sledge. She had attached herself to that because it 
was the slowest, and the easiest for her short legs. I 
tried to befriend her, and hustled her ofi^ to where 
my own dogs were waiting for their food ; but she 

preferred to take care of herself, and was generally 



present at all the feedings in the village, snatching 

a precarious bone at each and fleeing with it to a 

solitary place. I got quite fond of Shergo, with a 

pitying sort of fondness, but she remained entirely 

unresponsive. For a whole day she was missing, 

and I knew in my inmost mind that she had gone 

with a sledge that had left at daybreak for the north. 

Right enough, she came home late at night, limping 

painfully among a sledge team that she had met on 

the hills. ** Take that miserable little thing back to 

Hebron" is the translation of what Shergo heard 

on the Saeglek mountain pass, thirty miles north 

of Hebron, and she was ignominiously handed over 

and tied on the southward-bound sledge, and only 

allowed to trot the last few miles because she was 

nearly frozen. When I set out for Okak at the 

end of my four days' stay I sat on the sledge 

gripping Shergo in my arms; and she whined and 

yelped to be allowed to go northward. Home was 

the word, however, and Shergo at last submitted 

Out of sight of Hebron I dropped her overboard, 

and she galloped forward to find a vacancy among 

the big dogs that were pulling. She ran with them 

all day, lagging sadly in the smooth places where 

the pace was fast, but leading triumphantly up the 

hills where the coUar work had to be done, all the 

time pretending to her queer little self that she was 

working. We reached Okak in eleven hours and a 

half, with Shergo trotting wearily in the van. 

She was home again — where she did not seem to 

want to be! She moped, and followed the wood 

sledges, but found no satisfaction; and a few days 

later her odd career was over, for I found her stiff 

and dead on the frozen sea beach. 



An urgent Call — ^Alono the Ick-edob— Our Guide— 
A COMIC Touch — Starting Home — Over the Land 

I HAD imagined Labrador to be an ideally 
healthy land, a sort of extra- Arctic Switzerland, 
and I was disappointed to find that it did not quite 
come up to my expectations. Europeans of sound 
constitution enjoy good health, if one overlodcs such 
trifles as teeth coming loose as a result of too much 
tinned food, and a touch of influenza when that 
miserable complaint is in season. Influenza time 
comes twice a year, in midwinter (February) and 
midsummer (August); and the Eskimos knuckle 
under with one accord. When an epidemic begins 
it seldom misses any of them ; they all fall ill to some 
extent, be it mild or severe, and so one leams to 
view the onset of an infectious sickness with appre- 

Happily, only a few of the actual fevers have 
been known in Labrador, for if there were an out- 
break of anything really .fatal among the Eskimos 
it would mow them down as a scythe mows grass. 

It was a sudden and very real feeling of alarm 
that made the Hebron missionary hurry over to 
Okak with the message, '^Come, my people are 
dying I " 

It was ten o'clock at night when he arrived, a 

black night with a cloudy sky and a moaning wind 

from the east ; and when I heard the rushing of feet 

129 I 


and the hum of voices outside, and the hanuner» 
hammer, hammer on the bolted door, I knew that 
something serious was stirring. I made haste to 
open, and in came my visitor, a trim-built, active, 
bushy-bearded little man, the very man for Arctic life. 

** Come in, come in," I said, and seized his hands. 

" Come," he said, " come, my people are dying." 

This was no time for argument ; his earnestness 
was real ; and I turned to the crowd that surrounded 
the sledge where it stood on the snow at the foot of 
the steps, and shouted, ** Who will drive my sledge 
to Hebron ? " 

There was a roar of volunteers: ''Uvanga, 
uvanga, uvanga " (I, I, I) ; and I tried to choose the 
two who shouted first, and called them into the 
house. We wasted very little time over discussing 
the situation ; it was a case of urgency ; there must 
be no delay. If we started at five in the momimr, 
said the Eskimos, we could run the first ten mUes^ 
the dark, and have the gathering light of the sunrise 
to help us before we reached the first difficult pass. 
This seemed sensible advice. "We will do so," I 
told the men ; ** call us in good time so that we may 
be ready.'* 

" So let it be," said the drivers, and they got up 
to go home, perfectly cheerful although they knew 
that there was no rest for them, but they must spend 
the short night in making ready for the run. 

Suddenly there came a roar from the crowd out- 
side. " Another sledge, another sledge," they yelled ; 
and we heard their pattering feet trotting down the 
track to meet the new comers. My drivers were off 
like a shot, bounding down the steps to see what was 

going on ; and with that we set to on our supper. 



In the middle of the meal the drivers came in, 
time with serious faces, "Ajomarmat" (it 
cannot be helped), they said; ^^the ice is broken. 
Two of the Hebron people have followed the 
niissionary, and they say that there is a storm from 
the east, and the ice was breaking behind them. To 
travel is impossible/' This was a blow ; but we had 
a long talk ova* the matter, and decided at the least 
to go in the morning and have a look at things. 
Then we went to bed. 

Five o'clock came all too soon: I was hardly 
warm among the blankets before thumps resounded 
on the door, and I crawled out of bed to find the 
drivers dressed in their sealskins, the dogs in harness, 
and the sledge standing ready for its load. 

It was a bleak and dispiriting business, this pull- 
ing on of cold clothes and boots by the lamplight ; 
but there was work ahead, and we were eager to be 
at it ; and by the time I was dressed the sledge was 
ready, and a crowd of people were keeping the dogs 
from running away. I thought that the men de- 
served a good breakfast, so I called them into the 
house and set them to work upon a big pannikin of 
hot tinned mutton, with what looked like unlimited 
bread and butter and weak tea. In an incredibly 
short time I heard them going out, chuckUng with 
satisfietction, and muttering ** Thankie, thankie," and 
I found that they had left a clear board behind them. 
Probably if they had been travelling for themselves 
they would never have bothered about break- 
fast ; a chunk of frozen seal-meat would have satis- 
fied them; but here was a chance not to be had 
every day, and I think they worked all the better 

for it. 



It was anything but a pleasant morping, if morn- 
ing it could be called. It was pitchy black, with 
never a star and no glimmer of moonshine ; and only 
the fact that the dogs could smell their way along the 
beaten track made it possible for us to start at alL 
Although the thermomet^ registered only twenty 
degrees of frost the cold was bitter in the extrane, 
for a raw air came moaning ftoux the east, chilling us 
through oiur heavy sealskins and making our cheeks 
and noses ache. We were even deprived of the beae- 
fit of an occasional trot alongside the sledge, for we 
could only see the faintest glimmer of the snow on 
which we were running, and when I tried to warm 
my stiffening toes I kept tripping and stumbling over 
jagged points of ice until one of the men shouted 
** Sit stiU, or we shall be losing you." 

After that I sat still, and hoped for the morning. 

One gets to know what hope means at a time like 
that. For two solid hours the agony went on, and 
then a faint glimmer of grey began to show to the 
eastward : it changed to a dull red, sullen and lurid 
in the morning haze, and we began to see the wide 
stretch of white ice beside us, and the dogs with their 
spidery shadows, and a black and awful sea ahead 
of us. 

Then we stopped our sledge, and clustered 

together to consult. I seem to see it now, that little 

knot of anxious men, with faces all frosted and features 

but dimly discernible in the half darkness, standing 

together on the frozen sea with the ice heaving and 

groaning under their feet, questioning and planning 

to find a road to Hebron ; and my pulse quickens as 

I seem to hear again the quick pattering of dogs' feet 

in the gloom behind us, and to see the short, light 



sledg€ with its active little driver, and to hear that 
cheery voice say " Aksuse." Johannes I 

What was he doing ? " Oh," said Johannes, " I 
heard you were going to Hebron, so I thought I 
would come with you. I hear they have plenty of 
walruses at Hebron, and I want some walrus skin 
for new drags for my sledge. I think they will sell 
me some." What a day to choose to go shopping I 
I wonder if there was more at the back of that little 
man's mind. He joined our little conference, and 
listened with nods to all that our drivers had to say. 
They were for turning back. ** There is no road," 
they said, **the ice is all broken there around the 
headland across the bay. Let us turn homewards." 
^^ A-a-a-tsuk," said Johannes. '^1 know a track 
over the headland ; let me see if we can get to it." 
He walked along the ice at the foot of the rocks, 
now standing for a moment, now running a few steps, 
now clinging to the stones, and we watched him in 
silence. I admired that little Eskimo ; to my mind 
he seemed the very personification of dogged pluck ; 
and as I stood shivering out there on the ice at the 
foot of the cliffs of lonely Labrador, and watching 
the tiny fur-clad figure as it moved steadily on to 
where the big headland of Uivak loomed black and 
stately, I said to myself. ** There is a man ; well may 
he call himself one of the People." He came back 
presently, and said " We can do it " — ^and we did it ! 

I think that of all my memories of life in Labrador 

the most vivid is the memory of that race along the 

firinge of ice at the foot of the cliffs. On the left 

the wall of rock rose steep ; on the right the black 

water churned and tumbled and ground the floating 

pans of ice together: beneath us the thick sea-ice 



rocked and heaved with the force of the waves, and 
here and there the water came swilling over. In 
front was a racing sledge, with Johannes sitting on 
it and yelling "Hu-it (go on), hu-it, hu-it" to his 
dogs; and our teams were following at safe inter- 
vals, galloping as fast as their feet would carry them. 
'' Sit tight, sit tight," said the drivers ; and there we 
sat, bowling along over the heaving ice. Sometimes 
one of the men pushed out a leg to guide the sledge 
round a bend or to check it where it seemed likely to 
slip sideways : they said nothing ; just sat there and 
chewed at their pipes, and left the dogs to follow the 
voice that shouted unceasingly in front. At the 
place where the guide led us on to the headland the 
ice was broken away from the rock, and was rising 
and falling with the swelL One moment it came 
groaning up to the level of the land ; the next it 
sank away and left a leap of several feet. The dogs 
went scrambling over, glad to get on to something 
firm ; but the drivers held the sledge back until the 
ice began to rise, and then with a yell they started 
the dogs again and bumped across the crack just as 
it [came up level. A second too soon or too late 
would have meant smashing the front of the sledge 
to splinters ; and as we drew on to the land I looked 
back and saw the ice dipping again behind us, and 
my companion's dogs coming on to take their 

Johannes looked over his shoulder to see that we 
were safe, and then started on foot, ahead of his dogs, 
to show the track. It seemed a long way over the 
headland, uphill and down, and always through soft 
snow ; and all the morning that little man trotted on, 

knee deep in snow, lifting his feet high to run the 



more easily, and keeping the same steady pace, hour 
after hour, with the dogs hard at his heels. Some- 
times he got on faster than the dogs, especially where 
the snow was deep and they had practically to swim 
because they could not get a foothold; and then 
Johannes would run from side to side with his head 
down, to make them helieve he was kK>king for 
something, or he would pretend to scatter something 
on the snow ; and every time they saw him playing 
this truly Eskimo game of make-believe they craned 
their necks forward and whined and struggled in 
their eagerness to catch him up. 

When lunch-time came I had a laugh at my 
companion's plight. We sat side by side upon my 
sledge to make the meal more sociable ; and I think 
we both contemplated with relish the bread and 
meat that was thawing in our warmest pockets, for 
the excitement of the trip had sent the hours slipping 
by faster than we had thought, and hunger soon nips 
in that cold air. But my bearded friend was frost- 
bound; he could not open his mouth, because the 
moisture of his breath had frozen his beard and 
moustache firmly together. We carefully thawed 
him with our hands, and so he managed to get a 
bite ; but the coffee froze him up again, and I am 
afraid that I laughed a good deal at his predicament as 
he cautiously poked thin chips of biscuit between his 
teeth, with the sledge rolling and jolting so that he 
missed as often as he hit. But he had the laugh on 
his side before long. 

I was dilating upon the advantages of having a 
travelling box to sit in, while he was in favour of 
balancing on the top of the load like the Eskimos. 

'^If you have a travelling box," said I, ''you can 



drop all your loose belongings in without fear of 
losing them, and you have no need to ding on 
constantly; you can loll in comfort and'' — but my 
words were cut short by a lurch of the sledge as it 
passed over a buried boulder, and off I roUed into the 
soft snow, where I remained sticking head downwards, 
with fiitUe legs waving in the air. The drivers of 
the last sledge puUed me out and set me right way 
up ; and there I sat, scraping the freezing snow out 
of my neck and ears and hair, while everybody 

Early in the afternoon we lurched down a steep 
place on to the sea-ice, and saw a clear, firm road in 
front of us. 

Johannes came to my sledge for a talk, and told 

me marvellous tales of the land over which we had 

crossed. ''Nellojut nunangat" (that is the land 

of the heathen), he said ; ** there is a big village of 

iglos up there, all tumbling to pieces, and you can 

find flint harpoons and broken stone pots among the 

rubbish buried in the floors. No man has lived 

there for a long time" — '* ovatsiaro-pftrirluk " (a 

far-away by-and-by) was his picturesque way of 

putting it — '' and the people do not often travel that 

way. They are a little frightened, for it is strange 

and lonely among the tumble-nlown huts, and there 

is a big heathen graveyard on the headland, where 

they used to lay the dead hunters down in their 

stone graves in sight of the sea. But I have been 

there, tautuk (I should like to go again) ; why, that 

steep place that we came down is a river in the 

summer, and the trout are so many in it that you can 

catch them with your hands in the pool under the 

waterfall.'* But Johannes's story came to an end, for 



his dogs were squabbling, and off he ran to terrify 
them with his shouts. 

As the afternoon wore on the dogs began to 

tire, and Johannes trotted in front again; and 

the rest of us sat on our sledges until the cold began 

to chill us, and then ran alongside until weariness 

made us sit down again. So, cold and weary by 

turns, and at last cold and weary at the same time, 

we drew near to Hebron ; and every time I looked 

ahead in the gathering twilight, and afterwards in 

the bright moonshine, I saw a trim little figure clad 

in silvery sealskins trotting tirelessly on, and a pack 

of patient draggle-tailed dogs struggling gamely to 

keep at his heels. So we came to Hebron in the 

dark of the night, seventy-one miles over sea-ice and 

snow-covered hiUs, and of the seventy-one miles 

Johannes had trotted at least forty. Like ghosts 

in the moonlight we drew up the slope towards 

the sleeping village, with no sound but the grinding 

of the runners, and the quick panting of the dogs 

and the patter-patter of their feet. 

The Hebron dogs smelt strangers; they woke 

from their frosty beds in the snow porches, and ran 

out to whine and yelp ; and the village awoke with 

a start Lights flashed everywhere, and with a 

forore of exdtement the people turned out of their 

reindeer-skin beds, and came helter-skelter out of 

doors, pulling on clothes as they ran, and shouting 

the word that they always use to betoken the coming 

of a sledge — ** Kemmutsit, kemmutsi-i-it/' ** Nako- 

mdk, nakomdk," they shouted as they wrung our 

hands, '* Aksuse." They clustered round their own 

missionary with evident affection ; *' Aksunai," they 

said, '* nakudlaipotit "" (we are thankful to you) ; then 



in their practical way they shouldered our rugs and 
boxes and led the way to the Mission house. 

I need not say much about the two days. I spent 
in Hebron. The people were in a state of great 
excitement, ready to fall in with any plan» for typhus 
fever had broken out in two of the huts, and four 
of the victims were already dead. 

I got the sick ones isolated, the infected/ huts 
destroyed, and the clothes and bedding sunk into 
the sea through a hole in the ice, and the pestilence 
spread no further. 

It meant the outlay of a little money on helping 
those so summarily rendered homeless to set up 
housekeeping afresh; but I shall always think 
that the money was well spent — and I was sur- 
prised to find how little it costs to make an Eskimo 

As soon as it was safe to go I started home, and 

this time my sledge was the only one, for Johannes 

was stiU busy bu3ring walrus hide. We set off at 

daybreak on a fine bright morning, with the whole 

population lined up to see us off or to run the first 

half mile with us. My drivers sat grinning on the 

sledge and let the Hebron men do the guiding ; said 

if many hands make light work that sledge must 

have slid easily, for there were more hands to heave 

it from side to side among the stones and to steady 

it down the sudden dips than could find room for 

a grip. A horde of boys ran in front of the dogs, 

shouting and chattering and chasing one another; 

and the women and older folks on the bank behind 

us yelled " Aksuse, aksuse '* as long as we could hear 

them. A good send-off is half the journey ; and I 

could see by the smiles on the drivers' faces, as they 



complacently puffed at their pipes, that they felt the 
elation as much as I did myself. 

Our helpers dropped off one by one, and with a 
last wave of the hand we turned out of the bay and 
left Hebron hidden behind the rocks. 

For nine hours we jogged on in the usual style of 
an Eskimo sledge journey : that is to say, the drivers 
shared the tasks as drivers do, one looking after the 
dogs while the other guided the sledge, and some- 
times changing places for a little variety ; the dogs 
played their usuaJ trick of getting all tangled up, and 
compelling us to stop every ten miles to disentangle 
them ; and I trotted and sat still by turns, flicking 
the long whip-lash to and fro, and listening to the 
chatter of the men as they talked of the landmarks 
we were passing. We only saw one sign of liffe the 
whole day long, and that was when we met a boy 
with a idedge and six dogs twenty miles out of 
Hebron. He was taking home a load of firewood, 
and had come all that way because there are no trees 
so far north as Hebron itself. He did not stop, but 
just wheeled his dogs out of the way so as to keep 
the two teams from getting tangled, and shouted 
** Aksunai '' as he passed. I suppose he had spent the 
night in the woods. 

Late in the afternoon we reached the frozen 

river down which we had come from our crossing 

of the headland, and the men became eager and 

excited. In front of us was a smooth sheet of dark 

grey ice, covering what had been black water when 

we passed it a couple of days before. We halted 

at the lumpy joining of new ice and old, and the 

men went cautiously forward to try it. They walked 

twenty or thirty yards, and then stopped and 



beckoned me to follow. It was with a little natural 

trepidation that I set my foot upon the pasty -looking 

sur&oe; but I was not so heavy as the Eskimos^ 

and judged that what bore them would be safe for 

me too. '* Kannodlungitoky immakka ** (it is probably 

all right) were the first words they said when I 

joined them on the queer elastic ice, and one of th«n 

stamped his foot and set the whole field shuddering. 

It rocked and swayed as we walked to and firo, and 

I wondered how the heavy sledge would £ue round 

the steep face of the heaiUand. ** Is it safe for the 

sledge ? " I asked them. ** Immakka " (probably — ^it 

may be), was their answer. ** Are we to travel ov^ 

the ice or over the land," said I ; ** what do you 

think.'* ^ Issumangnik " (just as you please) said 

the drivers; and that was as much as I could get 

them to say. To my mind they seemed none too 

sure about it, and I felt that there was nothing to 

be gained by taking a needless risk. '* Over the land,** 

I said, and with a nod of agreement and never a 

word the men turned cheerfiiUy to help the sledge 

up the steep walL The dogs clawed and slipped 

and whined as they struggled up the frozen brook, 

and the drivers hauled and heaved at the groaning 

sledge, while I clung to it in a hopeless effort to 

keep my feet. The little flexible feet of the 

Eskimos, with their tight-fitting and supple sealskin 

boots, seemed to grasp the waves and roughnesses 

in the slippery fresh-water ice, and up the two 

willing fellows clambered, shoving the nose of the 

sledge this way and that to give it the best road. 

We found our tracks of two days before in the soft 

snow on the land, and the dogs put their noses down 

and went whimpering along, distressed because they 



could go no £aster. It was not till we had raced 
darwn the slope to the ice again, and were round the 
bay that we had skirted in so hazardous a fashion 
under Johannes's guidance, that my drivers stopped 
the dogs and turned to look once more at Cape 
Uivak, where he rose stif&y from the wide plain of 
ue^e ice. ^* Kannodlungitok, immakka/' said one 
to the other ; and then, turning to me with a smile, 
^* If we had not had you with us we should have 
crossed the new ice. It is probably all right — ^for 

They had been quite eontent to face five hours' 
haid work over the headland instead of five miles' 
clear fast run round its foot: risks to them were 
nothing — ^they knew the ice — but they would not 
even 9eem to take me into danger. 

And they called to the dogs and drove on, 




MY next journey to Hebron contained one of 
those adventurous touches tliat all Labrador 
travellers know. The winter weather is alwajrs 
treacherous, and however carefully one may study 
the barometer, and however wise and experienced 
the drivers may be, storms may arise and snow may 
fall at the shortest notice. 

We made our start at five o'clock on a calm, cold 
morning, with a cloudless sky above us all twinkling 
with stars. It seemed an ideal travelling morning ; 
the dogs were brisk and in the best condition, and 
the track was as good as a winter track can be. 
We had every prospect of making a fast run, and 
when the sun rose I had my first taste of the real 
pleasures of travel 

There was an exhilaration about the keen, frosty 
air and the crackling snow, and I thoroughly enjoyed 
the alternate running for warmth and resting on the 
sledge in the cold sunshine. 

In less than six hours we reached the neck of 

land that stands half way between Okak and Hebron, 

and climbed the steep slope at a pace that took my 

breath away. The drivers seemed quite at their 

ease ; as a matter of fact, Eskimos are so used to 

running and climbing that they never seem to pant 

or lose their wind however hard they are pushed. 

Running is part of their nature. 



We stopped on the summit to clear the dogs 
for the run down the steep slope that leads to the 
Hehron ice, and as we looked before us we saw a 
cloud drifting quickly from the north, and lying 
low upon the wide bay. One driver looked at the 
other: they shook their heads. '^ Ajomarmat "' (it 
cannot be helped), they said. 

'< What is the matter? " I asked. 

«< See that cloud : that is attuamek '* (the northern 

We held a brief discussion of the situation, and 

made up our minds to run for shelter. ^* Jannekunut*' 

(to John's house), said the men, and they shouted 

the dogs on to their legs again and we went whizzing 

down the hill. And all the time there was running 

in my mind the phrase out of the Bible, ** A little 

cloud, no greater than a man's hand.'' At first sight 

that little cloud would not have frightened me, but 

the drivers knew it ; and when I looked again after 

the exciting race down to the ice, I saw a heavy 

grey wall coming tearing along to meet us. In a 

few minutes it was upon us, and there had begun 

one of the most anxious hours that I have ever 

spent. I sat with my back to the wind, for I dared 

not face it, and even through my thick sealskin 

the wind cut bitterly. Each time I turned to look 

I saw the same sight ; a wall of frozen snow beating 

against us, a taut line stretching away to where the 

dogs were lost to sight in the drift, and two plump, 

fiir-clad, and frosted figures, clinging to the sledge 

and running with heads down, guiding the sledge 

with an instinct that did not fail them even in the 

awful ** attuamek " which swallowed us up and blotted 

out the landmarks, and drowned every sound in its 



terrific roar. How the men found their way I do 

not know, but suddenly we went bumping up a 

bank and left the storm behind us. In another 

minute we heard the howling of dogs, and when 

the sledge went grinding over a patch of wood- 

chipjnngs I knew that a house must be near. Sure 

enough the dogs stopped on the sheltered side of 

a wooden house nearly buried in snow, and one 

of the men shouted to me ^* Go in — John's house." 

I thumped the thick of the snow off my shoulders 

and made for the porchi which was, of course, fiiU 

of dogs ; but when I ** shooed " them out of the way 

I was astonished to find that they were all in their 

harness. I pulled the seal-hide thong that lifted 

the latch, and went into the house. There sat 

John, dad in all his travelling furs, with a dejected 

head bowed upon his hands. He looked up in an 

apathetic scnrt of way, but his look changed in an 

instant to one of utter consternation. Then he 

jumped to his feet and shouted for his daughter, 

and the two of them stared, and wrung my hand, 

and asked how ever I had managed to get there. 

My side of the story was soon told, and then came 

John's: one of his household had just met with 

an accident, and he had harnessed his team to go 

to Hebron, the nearest Mission station, for help, 

when the storm came up and drove him indoors. 

Between us we managed to set things to rights, 

and all the evening John sat ruminating over the 

strange happenings of the day; and he put my 

own thoughts into words when he said, ''The 

Hand of Grod is very near us on the Labrador.'' 

It is only a travelling incident, but I could 

not help thinking of his words as we toiled 



through the soft snow to Hehron on the following 

On the way home from Hebron, a few days later, 
we had to cross Nappartok Bay, a place with an un- 
enviable reputation. No sledge driver will take upon 
himself to guarantee a fast run if he has Nappartok 
Bay to cross, for there the snow is always soft ; and 
there, on my way home from Hebron, I had my 
first taste of the real quality of a soft track. As soon 
as we left the land, the dogs began to wallow in the 
clinging snow, and the sledge nearly came to a stop. 
The poor brutes seemed to be actually swimming, 
unable to reach the bottom of the snow and get a 
foothold, and floundering as they tried to lift their 
legs above the surface for another step. By a sort of 
instinct they dropped into line one behind the other, 
so that each dog had the advantage of the trampled 
track of the ones before it. I felt most sorry for the 
leading dog, as she went shuffling and whining along 
with nose down and tail up, but Jerry slipped on his 
snowshoes and tramped ahead of her to give her some 
sort of a road to follow. It was a curious sight : the 
trudging Uttle Eskimo, with his feet wide apart, 
swinging the big rackets round and planting tiiem 
one in front of the other, and behind him the dogs, 
marching in a narrow furrow, and looking Uke a long 
line of waving tails. 

Sometimes the snow was too deep for them ; they 
looked round and whined, as if to say ** Do you really 
mean us to go on? Why not camp until it is 
better ?" but Julius said " Hu-it," and on they went, 
trying their hardest and whistling with distress. 

In one place even Julius's " Hu-it," repeated'over 

and over again, failed to move them, though they 

146 X 


struggled and tugged, and though the men heaved 
the sledge from side to side to set the nmners free 
from the clinging snow ; they simply wallowed, and 
I wondered what was going to be the outcome. The 
men were equal to the emergency ; no doubt it was 
an everyday kind of occurrence to th^m ; they went on 
snowshoes for twenty or thirty yards, and tramped 
to and fro to harden a track, and then came back and 
urged the dogs to try again, and so the sledge crawled 
on. I slipped on my snowshoes and tried to go with 
them, but after a mile or two I was absolutely 
beaten ; my legs refused to be lifted, and once I fell 
and had to be ignominiously rescued from a sea of 
powdery snow by the ever-watchful Julius. It 
seemed a shame to sit upon the sledge while the dogs 
were toiling so hard, but there was nothing else for 
it ; so I sat still and tried not to think about the poor 
dogs, though really, when I saw the sledge sinking 
above the cross-pieces, with its nose shoving a great 
snowball in front of it, I had not the heart to sit 
down. I jumped off, and immediately sank and 
made the dogs' work all the harder by clinging to 
the side of the travelling box and nearly upsetting 
the whole thing. In the softest places, when the big 
snowball grew between the runners in front, the men 
came back and kicked it away, and lifted the nose 
of the sledge up for a fresh plunge, and yelled '* Hu-it, 
hu-it, hu-it " until the dogs went off with a scamper — 
a burst of energy that only lasted for ten yards, when 
the nose was under the snow again and needed all the 
efforts of both men and dogs to make it plough for- 
ward ever so slowly. It is not more than ten miles 
across Nappartok Bay, but we took ten and a half 

hours to cross it ; and after that crossing 1 no longer 



wondered why the old missionaries used the word 
*' mauja " (soft snow), in their translation of Bunyan's 
PilgrirrCs Progress^ to picture to Eskimo minds the 
plight of the pilgrim when he got into the Slough 
of Despond. What better word could they have 
used for the clinging, sinking waste in which the 
traveller's feet sank as he made his weary way 
towards the wicket gate ? What word more vivid 
than "mauja'* to a people who spend their lives 
among the snow and ice and rocks of the frozen 
Labrador ? 

It is surprising to find how soon the dogs forget 
the "mauja." Once through it they are quite willing 
to trot along at their usual five miles an hour, and 
even after their ten and a half hoiurs of labouring across 
Nappartok Bay they were able to run the thirty miles 
to Okak in good time — and without any whipping. 
Eskimo drivers do not believe in flogging tired dogs : 
it only takes the spirit out of them, they say, and 
though I have seen lazy dogs and sulky dogs and 
disobedient and quarrelsome dogs I felt glad that the 
men did not treat them cruelly : a dog's life is hard 
enough without that. The first thing was always to 
shout at the dog—" Tawny " or " Glove " or " Lamp " 
or whatever its name happened to be; and it was 
amusing to see how the dog that heard its name 
tightened up its trace and tried to efface itself by cross- 
ing over to another place in the team. If it was only 
a matter of laziness a word was enough, but when there 
was a doggy quarrel afoot the reminder was soon for- 
gotten and great hulking " I^amp ** would soon be back 
in his place, snapping at his neighbour's heels. Then 
one driver would say to the other " Una-firluk *' (that 

awfiil creature), and without further ado he reached 



for the whip and ran alongside the sledge trailing the 
lash on the snow. 

The dogs looked over their shoulders and yelped, 
and hurried and strained to get along as fast as 
possible, while the prospective victim made wild 
efforts to hide himself among the others. 

It was useless: with an indescribable sweep of 
the arm the driver sent the thirty feet of walrus-hide 
lash hissing through the air, and with a sharp flick 
caught the right dog a sounding crack on its flank. 
There was a yell, and the poor dog drooped its tail 
and cowered on the snow, crawling along with a 
shrill whistling noise in anticipation of another smack. 
Once was enough 1 But there are hard-headed 
villains among dogs, that will not take the well- 
meant hint of a single crack of the whip ; for them 
there is a special flogging in store. The driver runs 
forward and grasps the offender's trace, and hauls it 
nearer to the sledge. And so the dog must run, 
only a couple of yards or so from the man with the 
whip, and the very terror which the hauling back 
inspires is a sufficiently wholesome lesson for most 
dogs. Ten minutes of running on a shortened trace 
generally works a cure, but if this broadest of hints 
seems useless three or four sound strokes of the lash 
will send the poor dog back to his senses with a jerk, 
and when, at the end of the whipping, his trace is 
unhitched and he is aUowed to trot forward to his 
place, he is a marvellous worker for an hour or 
two — ^trace always tight, shoulders always forward, 
with none of that shambling, make-believe, slack- 
trace work that lazy dogs are apt to do. In the best 
of teams there are always one or two dogs nmning 

slack, and the drivers let it pass so long as the dogs 



take turns at it^ because it gives the team the chance 
of resting by turns from the weight of the pulling. 
A dog that must work all the time soon wears out, 
and it always seemed better to me and my drivers to 
take fifteen or seventeen dogs for a long trip and 
maintain a good pace easily, than to force a team 
of ten or eleven to do the work, as some of the 
Eskimos do. 

Good dogs do not need the whip to make them 
trot, and my drivers were generally content to shout 
at them or to flick the lash to and fro as a reminder. 
When the dogs were tired one or the other of the 
men used to run in front of them. Often the men 
must have been as tired as the dogs themselves, but 
no matter ; with the utmost cheerfulness big heavy 
Julius would take off his sealskin dicky and tuck it 
under the lashings of the sledge, and run ahead as if 
he were a mere boy instead of the staid father of a 
large family, and in a fair way to be a grandfather 
before so very long. When he had run enough for 
his purpose he would come back to the sledge for a 
smoke while the other man took up the running, and 
so between them they used to hurry the team over 
the last ten or fifteen miles of a day's trip in two or 
three hours, and sometimes land me at the snug 
warmth of a proper house instead of dooming me to 
an uncomfortable apology for rest in a snow hut — 
though the snow hut would have served them very 
well if they had been alone. It was an odd dance 
that brought the man back to the sledge from his 
place in front of the dogs : it would have been use- 
less to try to get to one side and allow the dogs to 
go past, for the dogs follow the runner with an 

absolutely blind perseverance ; accordingly, the only 



thing to do was to stand still, and compel the dogs 
to run past by shouting at thenou There was always 
the same littie hesitation on the part of the dogs : 
the man stood, and they expected to stand too. No, 
" Hu-it, hu-it, hu-eeet," yelled the driver — perhaps he 
flicked the whip across the heads of the toim — and 
the frightened dogs ran on, while the runner b^an 
to jump nimbly over the traces. He pranced up 
and down, always seeming just to save himself from 
falling, and sat down with a jerk as the sledge over- 
took him. 

Once I tried this characteristically Eskimo trick, 
and nearly paid dearly for my rashness. I had 
been running ahead of the dogs, and stopped with 
a shout of " Hu-it " which the drivers took up. In 
a moment I was among the tangle of traces, and 
found that it takes skill to jump them successfully. 
I hopped and skipped with all my energies, but I 
had not the knack of the thmg, and down I went 
with my feet caught in a jumble of seal-hide thongs. 

The dogs were on me with a pounce, and the 
next moments were a blurred impression of snarling, 
fighting dogs and shouting, kicking drivers. A whip 
cracked, and the dogs spread in terror, while the 
men tried to calm them with deep-toned "Ah's"; 
and after that I always carried the whip with me 
when I wanted to run ahead. 

Dogs begin to get very ravenous when they have 

run thirty or forty miles, and are ready to eat things 

less palatable than human beings. Once, I remember 

my fur cap blew off, and that was the last I saw of 

it. There happened to be a sledge following close 

behind us, and the dogs stopped to have a merry 

little scuffle over the dry morsel that a chance wind 














had blown in their way. It was all over in a moment, 
and probably one of them had swallowed my cap 
whole, so quickly was it demolished. 

One of my drivers, good thoughtful fellow, in- 
sisted on lending me his cap in spite of my protests. 
'* Me all right,'' he grinned, ** Eskimo brains, no 
fireeze, plenty of hair ; you, Kablun&k brains, freeze 
very quick " ; and perhaps he was talking sense, for 
the Eskimos very seldom wear caps except for 
travelling ; they walk about on the bitterest, snowiest 
days with their heads uncovered except for the thick 
thatching of coal-black hair. 

One thing that we saw on nearly every journey, 
and that always set the dogs off at a gallop, was 
the Arctic raven. That seems a solitary bird, for we 
nearly always saw one only. The great black bird 
used to stand on the snow, cocking its head this way 
and that, and perhaps stalking a step or two in an 
unutterably grave manner; and the dogs, as soon 
as they caught sight of it, were off with futile haste, 
each striving its utmost to get there first, and all 
held in fixed order by their traces. The leading dog 
had the best chance, but the raven had a wary old 
eye upon the danger : it waited until the dogs were 
within a few feet of it, and from the sledge it looked 
as if it were caught, and then with leisurely flappings 
betook itself off to a fresh stand, to wait with un- 
ru£B[ed calm for a repetition of the same performance. 

I have no doubt that the raven would have been 
demolished, bones, feathers, and all, at a single gulp, 
if it had waited another second ; but it never waited. 
I never saw a driver shoot at a raven, though they 
must be tempted at times, for I have known ravens' 
wings to be used for cleaning out the stove-pipes. 


There seems to be no limit to a dog's appetite, 
especially if it be a hungry travelling dog. During 
one stay at Nain a man came to me with a very 
rueful countenance to ask whether I had any spare 
harness with me. He had followed my sledge finom 
Okak, and wanted to get back again if only he could 
be assisted out of the plight in which his dogs had 
landed him. It appeued that the harness was all 
wet when he reached Nain, so he hung it over the 
roof of the hut in which he was lodging, expecting 
it to dry in the wind. In the morning it was all 
gone — ^in more senses than one, not a trace remained 
— and his dogs were slinking about the village with 
a furtive air and a very weU-fed appearance. He 
seemed hurt by this ungrateful behaviour. ** And I 
fed them, too,*" he said ; ** I gave them half a seal for 
their supper." It was only the wolfish nature of 
the dogs that made them devour the harness, and 
not hunger merely, for I am sure that the man did 
feed them as he said. In fact, I have never known 
an Eskimo go in to liis own food and rest after a 
day's travelling, without first unharnessing and feed- 
ing his dogs. It is a custom of the people. 

Sometimes the dogs have to work on very poor 

food, especially in the springtime, when the reindeer 

hunt is over and the seals have not yet come. Then 

the dogs have to help in the spring cleaning, if I 

may use such an expression ; at any rate, when all 

the people have got new reindeer skins for beds it 

seems quite the thing to chop the old bed*skins up 

for dog-food, and the dogs gulp this queer fodder 

down merrily enough if it is moistened with a little 

rank oil Two or three meal-times a week is 

enough for the sledge dogs; the Eskimos say that 



over-feeding makes them savage. They are un- 
pleasant brutes, handsome in their way» but un- 
friendly and sly; easily mastered by firmness, but 
ready to take advantage of any weakness. I have 
known an Eskimo child to be killed by the dogs» 
because she met a pack of them when she was alone ; 
and a poor woman who fell in a fit was pounced 
upon and half devoured before help could arrive. 

I was always wary of the dogs, and was very 
glad of those tough seal-hide knee-boots to protect 
my legs when I stumbled among the sleeping brutes 
that filled the porches of the huts. My plan was 
to poke them to wide-awakeness with a stick, and 
then, with a shout of ** Hu-it " (a very expressive 
sort of *' Get out of the way ") march boldly through 
them. One evening a man came to my room and 
said, *' Shall I shoot my dog? '' 


** Because it bit your boot ; and the people have 
a rule that a dog which has bitten must be killed." 

As the dog had only tasted boot, with which 
flAvour it must have been well acquainted, I spared 
it ; but if it had tasted me, nothing short of shooting 
it would have satisfied the owner. 

It is a custom of the people : the dangerous dog 
must die. 

Kristian was rather Relieved when I acquitted 
his dog. I had trodden on its tail in a dark porch, 
and its snap at my boot was by way of a natural 
response to stimulation. I explained all this to 
Kristian. ** Let the dog live," I said. 

Kjristian gravely said, " Taimak (so let it be) : it 
is my best dog." 



My Driykiu — ^Two Jonathans — ^My Box — Old Koluck gbts 
Caught — A Snow House — ^A Wolf — A Ninety-Mils Tbot — 
A Partridge on the Road— My Frozen Nose 

AFTER a little experience of Eskimo sledge 

j^3^ travelling, I decided that I should get on 

better if I chose two men as permanent drives. 

So I appointed Julius and Johannes to the position. 

Julius is a big, burly fellow, not more than five 

feet three or four inches tall, but with a magnificent 

pair of shoulders. He must weigh fourteen or 

fifteen stone, and can lift almost an3rthing. To see 

him hoist my big sledge this way and that, a weight 

that I could hardly shift at all, was a constant 

delight to me. The big man did it so easily, and 

always with the same gentle smile on his broad 

face; he never bothered to clench his teeth and 

draw deep breaths, he simply lifted things as if they 

were nothing. ^' Yes," said I, " that is the man for 

me." So Julius became head driver. It was a wise 

choice : there was never any trouble while he was in 

charge, and the sledge never upset or ran away as 

sledges sometimes do. 

Johannes is a sort of pocket edition of Julius. 

He has the same delightfully happy smile, whatever 

there is to do, and the same willing energy; but 

the man himself is small and slim, and active as 

an eel. Each of these men possesses an Eskimo 

surname, and the names just happen to fit them. 



Julius is called Kak&rsuk, which means '* a little 
mountain"; and Julius's weight was a matter of 
concern to the dogs. When he sat down on the 
sledge they all used to look round to see what the 
matter was, and Johannes would laugh and say, 
^< No wonder they are surprised : they have to piiU 
a mountain now." Julius used to grin at this 
pleasantry, and then say with a chuckle, '* Yes, they 
don't mind when you jump on, for it is only like 
sticking a pin into the sledge " ; Johannes's name is 
Merkor&rsuk, which means ** a little needle/' This 
was an endless joke on our journeys. If the dogs 
were running slowly, it was ** Get off, old mountain, 
they can't pull you " ; and if Johannes happened to 
feel inclined to trot alongside a little, Julius would 
say with a chuckle, '* Your weight doesn't make 
any difference, little pin." After these passages 
they both used to ruminate over the joke, storing 
it up as something good to tell when they got 

My drivers soon became firm friends. They even 
got as far as calling one another Jonathan. '* Just 
tighten that dog's trace, Jonata." ''All right, 
Jonata." ''Run in front a little way, Jonata/' 
"Ahaila (yes), Jonata," and so on. When we 
were making our camp in the woods, Julius some- 
times came to me and said, " Where's Jonata ? " 

"Over among those trees, I think; he went to 
look for water." 

Off he would go, to look for Johannes. Mean- 
while Johannes might have wandered round and 
reached camp from some other quarter. His first 
question invariably was, " Where's Jonata ? " 

One ni^t, when we were snugly fixed in our 



snow hut, I asked them, '^Why do you call each 
other Jonata ? " 

Julius took a few good puffs at his pipe and 
answered ** lUanirdngnermut " (because of friendship). 

<*Then why not call yourselves David luul 
Jonathan ? " said I ; ** one be David and the other 
be Jonathan ? " 

** No," said he, ** Jonathan was the friend " ; and 
Johannes nodded in approvaL I said no more ; and 
Jonathan they both remained as long as I knew 

*' Friends " — yes, and my friends, too. 

Let me put in a good word for my Eskimo 
drivers. v 

I have travelled hundreds of miles with those 

two men, uphill and down, over mountain passes and 

across the rugged surface of the frozen sea ; I have 

camped in snow huts with them, [forty miles from the 

nearest other human being ; I have taken them from 

their homes and their hunting at the shortest notice ; 

I have pushed them on when some emergency called 

though I knew they would rather rest ; I have kept 

them back when they would gladly have made a 

start; through winter storms, and worse, through 

awful winter rains, we three have gone together; 

and never, a cross word, never a complaint, never a 

grumble, have I heard from them. Bough Eskimos, 

both, fond of raw meat and rancid oil, but capable of 

gentleness and affection and absolutely worthy of the 

trust I placed in them. It was not all pleasure for 

those two men. I have seen them cold and wet 

many a time ; I have seen them risk their lives a 

time or two ; but they loved those old journeys. 

Little Johannes wrote to me a few monUis ago, 


I Eskimo Slkdgb Doc 

> Mm. She mni an ■ ' 

Id Juliui In Ibeir winter laa. Mo>i imveJIen uke Iwo <l 
1 Ihe iledge. the oibei lo drin ihe doii, and u he 
dllficuli tuk or building ■ Hiow bi>ii<e for ihe nighl'i i 


a queer letter scrawled in pencil on a big sheet of 
foolscap. The spelling is weird in places, because he 
puts things as they sound to his Eskimo ears. 
" Immale/' he writes. ** Oh that we were travelling 

Julius was my head driver and looked after the 

sledge. Johannes looked after everything else. I 

cannot enumerate his duties ; he was on the look-out 

for them all day long, and did them as they 

cropped up. Amongst other things he elected 

himself my ** nurse." That is to say, he was always 

on the look-out to make himself useful in some little 

personal way. Suppose that one of my boot-strings 

came undone. ** No, no," says Johannes, ** uvangale 

— ^let me do it — ^keep your gloves on; you have 

English hands; they wiU freeze. I have Eskimo 

hands." And on the long, weary hours of the dark 

evenings, when the dogs toiled slowly on and the 

wind nipped painfully, little Johannes was always 

near, trotting from one side to the other, racing 

forward to disentangle an unlucky dog and coming 

back to ask ** Are you cold ? See that rock ? Two 

hours to Nain. Anan&k (splendid), ai ? " 

On one of those runs through threatening weather 

I overheard a little conversation between the drivers. 

We were climbing a pass. The two men were 

walking beside the nose of the sledge, guiding it 

between the rocks, while I followed behind. 

** It is heavy up here,** said one ; " I wish we could 

go faster." 

" Ai-ai,*' said the other. " I wish the doctor's box 

could get off and walk." 

** Un6t," was the answer ; *' that box is medicine 

for the sick folks ; we are helping them." 



Eskimo drivers always look askance at any 
unusual load. They expect to take food and sleep- 
ing-bags and a box of clothing ; but to take a big box 
besides was something new. Hence their remarks. 

I once made my drivers almost protest. W^e 
halted for a night at a trading station, and aft^ 
a pleasant evening in the storekeeper's room the 
good man, our host, asked me to take on a small 
box for a friend of his at the next post. 

'< It is only a small box," he said, ** and will not 
take up much room." 

I assented willingly, and thought no more of it. 

My drivers looked at me rather reproachfully in 
the morning when the small box was brought out. 
It was ^'only a small box," but it was a box of 
gun cartridges, and weighed like lead. They did not 
say anything, but I can imagine their thoughts as 
the day wore on. 

It was a pleasure to travel with the same two 
drivers because they got so entirely used to one 
another. They worked together like two parts of a 

There are plenty of thrills on a sledge journey, 
and coasting downhill is one of them. As soon as 
we began to descend, the drivers moved to the front 
of the sledge, and sat one on each side. Their main 
concern seemed to be to keep the sledge from run- 
ning away. They dug their heels into the snow, and 
tugged and shoved to keep the track ; and all the 
whUe they were yeUing and screaming at the dogs, 
which raced on in front in a frightened effort to get 
out of the way. 

As the pace grew faster the drivers put on the 




On my very first journey I had noticed two heavy 

loops of wahrus hide, tucked under the lashings at 

the front of the sledge, and had wondered about 

them. I soon knew what they were. Looped over 

the front of the sledge runners they make powerful 

dra^ One is enough to check tiiie pace on any 

ordinary hill, while with two the sledge will stop on 

slopes liiat look quite alarming. It is only seldom 

that the drivers really let the sledge go, because they 

dare not risk a smash over an ice-hummock or a 

i^ave of frozen snow. 

I have had breathless rushes on some of the 

beaten tracks, where the men shout the dogs to one 

side, or unfasten them and leave them to follow, and 

the sledge whizzes down in a whirl of powdery snow 

kicked up by the drivers' heels. There are very few 

hills smooth enough for this kind of work. For the 

most part the vrinter passes follow the beds of 

mountain streams, where jagged rocks and awkward 

turns abound. But if the pace is not often thrilling, 

the ride is crammed with adventure; and many a 

time as I clung to the sledge, bumping and heaving 

down the slope, have I marvelled at the skill of my 

drivers. The two men think like one, and the sledge 

simply obeys them. 

Julius, being the stronger man, has the lion's 

share of the actual guiding; Johannes is always 

ready to run forward to the dogs. ** Kollek, KoUek," 

he would shout, '*keep to the track: keep to the 

track, you rascal. Ra-ra-ra-ra, go round that rock 1 " 

KoUek was a foolish dog ; his place was the outside 

one in the team, and there he would be 1 He did not 

seem to like running with the others; and not all 

the shouting in the world would bring him into line 



if he had made up his doggy mind to straggle. 
And round that rock he would not go. Perhaps he 
was in a brown study: perhaps he was sulky: 
straight on he went, outside dog right enough, but 
the wrong side of the rock. Now came the trouble. 
Away rushed Johannes to lift the trace over ; but 
before he could reach it KoUek was whining and 
whistling with terror as the weight of the sledge 
drew it tight and dragged him backwards. Poor 
dog I he planted his feet as firmly as he could on the 
frozen snow, and did his best to withstand the 
strain ; but the sledge went calmly on, and KoUek 
slithered frantically backwards. In a twinkling he 
was plump up against the rock, and then he could go 
no fiirther. 

There was a twang as of a giant fiddle-string 
when the trace broke, and KoUek was free. The 
trace trailed limply behind, while the dog scurried 
away to his place in the team. 

There he trotted, with shoulders forward and nose 
down, looking as if he were pulling as hard as the 
best dog in the country, but sly old rascal, looking 
back every now and again to see if Johannes was 
after him with the whip. 

I never saw my drivers do much work with the 

whip. They always had one with them, but used it 

mostly for turning the team. Eskimo dogs are often 

disobedient; they sometimes take absolutely no 

notice of the orders which the drivers shout at them ; 

and when our dogs behaved like that Johannas 

would give them a gentle hint by lashing the whip 

over the snow. That brought them to their senses I 

For a few minutes they would have obeyed a 




Another great advantage which I gaine by 
-taking the same two drivers on all my journeys, was 
-that I never needed to be anxious about a night's 
shelter. ''What wUl you do if we cannot reach 
Iiome?'' I asked Johannes one afternoon, as we 
laboured through the drifting snow in the teeth of 
an Arctic storm. 

^ Stop and build a snow house/' said he. 
^' Will you be able to find good snow in this 
weather ? " 

''Sua (what)?" said Johannes, with a look of 
surprise. "Find good snow? I can always find 
good snow.** 

Johannes has plenty of faith in himself— and I 
have never known him fail He was not bragging ; 
he made a matter-of-fact statement, like the thorough 
£skimo he is. He succeeds because it is his nature, 
and because he alwajrs keeps his eyes open. 

Some people are not so happy in their drivers. 
One good man set out to travel with two inex- 
perienced young Eskimos. When the time came to 
build the snow house, they made the alarming dis- 
covery that the snow knives had dropped off the 
sledge somewhere on the road, and — " Ajomarmat " 
(it cannot be helped) said the Eskimos. The traveller 
in that instance might have lost his life if he had 
not been an unusually carefiil man. He had a little 
tent among his travelling paraphernalia. He had 
often been teased for " making the dogs drag a tent 
around after them," and he confessed that he did not 
think he would ever use it. But it saved his life. 
As it was, he found it too cold for sleep, and spent 
a miserable night shivering in his sealskin sleeping- 

161 L 


The Eskimo drivers snored peacefully on the 
snow floor ! 

One plucky little Yorkshireman had an even 
worse experience. He had snow knives^ hut his 
drivers could not find snow hard enough for building. 
They dug trenches in the snow, and slept in the 
open! Providentially there was no wind, but my 
thermometer outside the hospital at Okak, only 
thirty nules north, registered sixty degrees of ftost; 
SO that one man at least can boast of sleepuig in the 
open air at somewhere near that temperature, and 
taking no harm. As a rule this sort of experience 
is beyond the endurance of a European constitu- 

Johannes was very distressed about it. '*Kap- 
pianarmdc" (how awfiil), he said; ''my namesake 
sleeps in the open air 1 I wiU go with him when he 
travels back to Hopedale, and then he will be sure of 
a snow house ! " 

On those journeys of mine I got quite used to 
seeing Johannes work himself up to snow house pitch. 
When the afternoon light began to grow dull, he 
pulled out one of the big snow knives that he kept 
under the lashings of the sledge. A fearsome-looking 
knife it was, with a bone handle and a blade a yard 
long. Brandishing this, he trotted from side to side, 
prodding here and jabbing there. He was '' finding 

Soon Julius stopped the sledge, and they held a 

Then the building began. It was generally on a 

gently sloping hillside, for there the snow hardens the 

best ; and Julius told me that a number of places 

are famous among the Eskimos for good hard building 



snow, and travellers do their best to reach one of these 
spots for their camping. 

When once the place was chosen, my drivers were 
soon at work. Each man armed hitnsdf with his 
hyge snow knife, and between them they marked a 
circle on the snow. Then Johannes retired to the 
middle and began to dig. He first made a wedge- 
shaped hole to give himself a start ; and then from 
the sides of the hole he carved great slabs of the 
frozen snow. I judged them to be about six or eight 
inches thick, two or three feet long, and eighteen 
inches high, and they were nearly as heavy as stone. 
Johannes just tumbled them out of his hole as fast as 
he could cut them, and as the hole grew I saw that 
the slabs were all slightly curved. Julius seized each 
slab as it toppled out, and carried it gingerly to the 
edge of the circle. He set the slabs on edge, side by 
side, and chipped them a little from the top so that 
they leaned inwards. He pared away the first few 
with his knife so that the lowest ring, when finished, 
formed the beginning of a spiral He followed the 
spiral up, propping each slab against its neighbour, 
and chipping its edge so that it leaned well inward. 
Meanwhile Jc^annes got nearer and nearer the wall 
with his digging, and his work got harder and harder, 
for instead of tumbling the slabs out he had to pick 
them up and hand them to Julius over the leaning 
walL I thought the wall looked frail and unsafe, but 
Julius seemed to think otherwise, for I have often 
seen him crawl upon it and lean over to see how 
Johannes was getting on inside. As a matter of fact, 
his weight only pressed the slabs together a bit more 
ftrmly ; and I got so used to it that I have sat placidly 

in a snow house while he crawled over the top. 



At Ust the spiral was finished, all but the 
'* keystone." Julius sprawled on the side of the 
house, while Johannes's hands dioved a big slab 
through the opening that still remained at the topw 
Julius laid it over the hole, and chipped the edges 
away with his knife until it gently dropped into 
place, and the building was ready. A scraping and 
trampling noise inside was the next thing ; that was 
Johannes smoothing the floor. Meanwhile Julius 
was filling all the erevices with handfuls of snow. 
** Keep the wind out," he said, ** boy*s work, this " ; 
from which I gathered that the Eskimo boy learns 
to build by filling the crevices with snow as his 
father fits the slabs together. '^Yes," said Julius, 
<^ and boy has to follow quick, too ; if he gets bdiind, 
he's no good. Soon learn quick. Now my boy — " 
and Julius was off into an anecdote of his boy*s 

Soon Johannes was ready to come out. I always 
knew when, because he used to light his pipe ; and a 
weird and rather pretty sight it was, to see the glow 
through the snow walls, with all the joints and 
crevices marked out because the snow was softer 
there and let the light through. It was generally 
dark by the time the house was ready. Johannes's 
sword poked out suddenly, and slashed a doorway in 
the wall, and the man himself crawled out and miade 
straight for the sledge« 

Then the dogs began to sit up. They knew that 

feeding-time was near. They were usually quiet 

while the building was in progress, but the finish of 

the work seemed to wake tiiem up. They began to 

whine and prowl about, and Julius often had to show 

them the whip to keep them in order. They would 



collect into a bunch and sit on their haunches, 
wistfully eyeing the preparations for their supper, 
and uttering a queer whistling sound. Julius needed 
only to trail tiie whip lash behind him as he walked, 
and the dogs nearest to it would slink off to the 
dher »de of the group. Meanwhile Johannes was 
chopping a frozen seal into fragments. He spread 
the pieces (m the snow, and called *^ Taimak '' (ready). 

There was a pricking of ears and a lolling of 
tongues : Julius quietly moved to one side, and with 
a mighty pounce the dogs were on top of their food. 
Yelping, snapping, snarling, gulping, the wise ones 
bolted the frozen meat, bones and all, as fast as they 
could pick it up. Some showed a little more 
refinement, but the dog that picked up a chunk and 
wandered aside to eat it at leisure got only a poor 
share. It was evident that the only way to get 
enough was to be quick ; and it was marvellous how 
soon that frozen seal was demolished. It was the 
work of a few seconds. One of the drivers always 
stood by to see fear {day, while the other carried the 
load off* the sledge and piled it inside the snow 

I was g^ierally cook on these occasions, and by 
the time the dogs were fed my kettle was boiling 
over a fire made in a hole in the snow, and I was 


tr]ring to thaw some bread. 

The men did not mind their bread and meat 

frozen: ^'ko-ak,'' they called it, and said it was 

** anan&k '* (splendid) ; but my teeth would not tackle 

it. I used to make blocks of toast, and stuff them 

in my pockets, and even then they were usually 

frozen in the middle. However, though it was 

rather different from dining at a high-class hotel, we 



got our evening meal, with hunger as sauce ; and we 
were glad to lie down and rest 

The drivers used to *'make the beds" by 
spreading aU the harness on the floor, and covering it 
with a bearskin. Then across the middle of the 
house they laid my sleeping-bag, and I crawled in. 
Last of aU they made a little hole at the top of the 
house for ventilation, and blocked up the door, and 
we were ready for sleep. I was never cold in a 
snow house, for a threefold bag like mine, sealskin, 
reindeer skin, and blanket, was as snug as the 
warmest of beds: but, oh, the floor I Dogs* 
harness may be all very well as a bed ; the Eskimos 
used to lie on it without any extra covering, and 
snore the snores of the just ; but I rolled from side 
to side, vainly trying to find a soft spot, and feeling, 
I suppose, very much as the poor princess did in the 
fairy story, when she had to sleep with a pea under 
the mattress. 

On one of these wakeftil nights I heard a terrible 
scuffling among the dogs outside. There were con- 
stant snarlings and howls, mixed with a most weird 
trampling noise. 

At last the turmoil came too near for my peace 
of mind: scraping, shuffling feet padded over the 
snow house, bringing down showers of snow on to 
my face. I got rather alarmed. 

I woke Johannes — and he took some waking, too. 

He rubbed his eyes, and then as the noise dawned 

on his ears, " Kingmi&rluit " (those awful dogs), he 

said, and shoved his way through the door. There 

was a sharp yelp and a brisk scuttering, and then 

silence again. Johannes crawled back, and plastered 

up the doorway with handfiils of snow. 



"A wolf among the dogs," he laconically told 
me; ''too much fight, all the time. Fine night: 
start soon,*" and he tumbled into his slumbers again. 

It was well that those two men could sleep, for 
the work they could cram into a day's travelling 
astonished me. 

I once travelled from Nain to Okak, a distance 
of ninety miles, with Julius alone. The snow was 
hard, and the dogs in good trim, but the sky looked 
threatening. '' No stop," said Julius, and he drove 
through the ninety miles without a rest. We stopped 
four or five times to disentangle the dogs' traces, but 
never for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time ; 
and we ate our bread and meat as we ran. I took 
my turn with the driving, but Julius bore the brunt 
of the work. He chirruped and whistled and cooed 
to the dogs as night began to come on, and they 
began to whine for a rest ; he ran in front of them 
when they began to flag, and landed me in Okak 
inside of twenty-two hoiurs. He was as fresh as 
paint the next day, and went off on a hunting ex- 
pedition of his own. 

My drivers did not seem to think it hard work ; 
it was all part of their life; it came natiurally to 

They used to enjoy the little incidents that came 
to vary the wearisome plodding through the snow. 
One day we were crossing the Kiglapeits, labouring 
through a ravine where the snow lay deep and soft, 
when Julius suddenly said ** A-ah." 

The dogs lay down very willingly, and I wondered 

why the stoppage. Julius held up his hand for 

silence, and I saw that Johannes was loading a 

gun. I could see no cause for this mysterious 



busiiiess, but I did not want to spoil sport by 
speaking: so I contented myself by wishing that 
I had Eskimo eyes for the time bdng. Johannes 
handed the gun to Julius. He raised it to his shoulder 
and fired. 

Then I saw a fluttering in the snow, not &ve 
yards away : a tittle red stain broke out, and some- 
thing red and white rolled down the hank towards 
us. Julius's hand was up fw silence again, and 
the gun went to his shoulder. 

Another bang, another stain, another something 

Then I saw two partridges, white as the snow 
on which they were walking. They Iodised from 
side to side in a dazed manner ; walked a few st^ps, 
and then took wing and flew leisurely over the 
bank out of si^t. Perhaps they had never seen 
a man before, or a dog, for that matter; and pro- 
bably our dogs were too hard at work to notice 
them; and so the sledge was close beside them 
before we knew it. 

Julius picked up the two he had shot, and tucked 
them under the bearskin at the front of the sledge. 
'^We shall have a fine supper to-ni^t," he said; 
and then, with a great roar of ** Hu-it " to the dogs, 
he drove on. 

Once it was the tracks of reindeer that crossed 
our path. We stopped, and the drivers had a 

'^ Hu-it," they said, and on went the dogs. 

Johannes looked wistfully at the reindeer tracks 

as we left th»ti. ** Twelve hours okl," he said, 

** gcme a long way now. No good," and he filled 

his stumpy pipe to solace him. 



Johannes was a man of resource. I used to enjoy 
^watching him find water. He seemed to know 
exactly where every stream ought to be, for he never 
hesitated. He took a snow knife, and plunged it 
into the snow up to the hilt. Then ne drew it out 
swiftly, and looked at the blade. It was wet ! He 
had found water, and soon had dug a hole and was 
ladling out mugfuls for everybody's benefit. He 
did not always strike water at the first plunge, but 
never seemed to need more than two or three. 

I had an example of his resourcefulness when my 
nose froze. It was a cold, dull day, and we were 
running against the wind. Suddenly Johannes 
stooped md gathered a handful of snow. He plumped 
down beside me on the sledge, seized me round the 
nedgi, and rubbed my nose vigcnrously with his snow- 
ball. I remember that I spluttered considerably, and 
Julius looked round with a grin. Johannes's &cg 
was all solicitude. ** Your nose is fixxEcn," he said, 
*^your nose is frozen;" and he rubbed and rubbed 
until he was satisfied that the life had come back into 
it — and so Johannes saved my nose. 



A Run to Nain — ^A Camping Accident — ^A Summons Home — 
Singing us Off — Into the Storm — Lost on the Mountatn — 
On the Edge of a Precipice— -Juuus to the Rescue — An 
Uncomfortable Night. 

I SUPPOSE that all Eskimo drivers are much 
of a muchness, and the reason why I found my 
two men such excellent fellows was that we got so 
used to one another. But I have never seen so good 
a path-finder as little Johannes, and I could not help 
thinking of him a time or two on one of the very 
few journeys I made without him. Johannes could 
not come ; his wife was ill, and it seemed unreason- 
able to ask him to leave her. I think that big Julius 
was as much concerned as I, for when I told him to 
choose a new companion for the trip to Nain he 
hummed and hawed, and took more than a day to 
make a choice. Finally he came along leading his 
cousin Kristian, a big, burly young man, and told me 
that this was '^aipara" (my other one). This was 
Kristian's fiirst trip as driver to a European, and he 
evidently felt flattered ; at any rate, he worked like a 
Trojan in spite of his reputation for laziness, and his 
gift for managing dogs was truly marvellous. In 
our snow house on the mountain pass Kristian 
became reminiscent. That is one of the strangest 
of tacks for an Eskimo to take, but I suppose the 
unaccustomed luxury of half frozen tinned mutton 

and three parts frozen bread, washed down with tea 



which was boiling at the beginning of the meal and 

scummed with ice before the end, was sufficient 

^o jog Kristian's memory of the last long sledge 

trip that he had made. He was a boy at the time, 

and was doing the boy's work of filling the crevices 

in the snow house widl after the builder, while his 

father, old Abia of Okak, kept the dogs in order by 

flicking the whip to and fro. Kristian struck his 

knife in the snow house wall, and just at that 

moment Abia lashed out at a quarrelsome dog. The 

lash, as it came twirling back for the stroke, wrapped 

itsdf round the knife and hurled it straight at Abia. 

He thought that the whip had struck him, and took 

no more notice until a queer faintness and the sight 

of blood trickling over his boot made him put 

his hand to his back — and find the knife. The man 

in the snow house heard his cries, and came running 

to see what was wrong. Kristian had forgotten the 

name of that man, but he must have been a cool 

customer, for he set about a piece of marvellous 

emagency surgery. He cut a thread of hide from 

the harness of one of the dogs, and, using a spike of 

bone for a needle, he sewed up the wound and 

stopped the bleeding. Abia got over both the 

injury and the rough surgery, for I knew him as 

an old man of seventy-seven, a great age for an 


I had only been a few days in Nain when a 

solitary Eskimo arrived from Okak with a note from 

my wife, whom I had left in charge of the hospital 

"A boy has been brought in with a compound 

fracture. If you can come at once you may save 

his 1^." The messenger was almost worn out: 

he had hurried on night and day, as Eskimos do 



when a life is at stake, and his pow little team of 
seven dogs sprawled upon the snow, as weary as 
he. I called Julius. '<We must start home at 
once," I told him. <' No good,"* said he, *' we have 
just fed the dogs." I knew what that meant : 
sledge dogs get a meal every two days, anfi gorge 
themselves so that they can hardly move. ^But 
we must go : Ixmtow dogs, leave the sleepiest behind : 
we must go." Julius w^it off without a word. 
Presently Kristian came. ** Are we going to start ? 
Lode, bad storm coming," and he pointed towards 
the north. ^' Never mind, Kristian, we must go." 
'< Ahaila,*' said Kristian, and went to help Julius 
harness the dogs. 

News soon spreads, and the whole village turned 
out to see the start. As I walked down to take 
my place on the sledge the old Eskimo schoolmaster 
laid his hand on my sleeve. '< Don't go," he said, 
'' you will all be lost Don't go." 

His concern was real, so I called my drivers. 
"What do you say?" I asked them. **Are you 
willing to go ? " 

" male " (of course), they said. '< Ready," said 
I, " go ahead." The dogs slowly raised th^nselves 
on their legs, and whined as they trotted along the 
bumpy path towards the sea-ice; and the heavy 
wrack of the northem storm came bowling al<»ig 
to meet us. **Aksuse," shouted the people, "be 
strong," and we waved our hands and shouted back. 
Then they b^^ to sing. 

There is a lump in my throat and a mist in my 
eyes even now, when I think of that scene : just 
a crowd of rough Eskimos, people whose grand- 
fathers had been heathen and wild, singing a hymn 



of God-speed as we set out on our dangerous 

^ TakkotigSl&rminiptingnut 
Gfide illagiliaetdk "^ 

they sang, and the ehanningiy balanced harmony 
came fainter and ever fainter as the wind began 
to sigh about us and the snow to beat on our 
faces. '^ Grod be with you tiU we meet again " — and 
we settled confidently to our task. 

That was the quietest day I have ever spent 
on a dog-sledge. There was none of the chatter 
and banter to which we were used ; there was work 
for us all to do, and we did it seriously, and all 
the time the drivers chewed pensively at their 
battered tobacco pipes and said nothing. 

It. was slow going until the dogs had got over 
thdr feed, but towards evening the pace improved 
and we made our usual six or seven miles an hour 
in spite of the storm. As oftoi as the dogs got 
tangled up Julius straightened their traces without 
stopping the sledge. I had heard tell of this feat, 
and so was very much interested when he set 
about it; but I thought it a very risky piece of 
acrobatic work. He pulled the team badic dose 
to the sledge, so as to get the frozen knot in the 
hauling line within reach of his teeth. The dogs, 
of course, thought they were going to be thrashed, 
and tug^fed and galloped most frantically, so that 
the man had hard work to hold them. 

We should have been in a pretty plight if they 

had got away, for they would have turned in their 

tracks and gone back to Nain, and we should have 

been left to walk. However, Julius tied the line 



to one 1^, and chewed the knot loose; then he 
slipped the traces off one by one and looped them 
over his other leg, so that all through the per- 
formance it was a case of seventeen dogs harnessed 
to Julius's legs, while he sat tight and made the 
sledge come along with him. My heart was in 
my mouth until the risky business was over. All 
day long I sat on the sledge with my back to the 
wind, and wondered how the drivers were finding 
the way. It was evening before I got any inkling 
of our whereabouts, and then the way led us 
uphill, and I knew that we had left the sea-ice 
and were on the land. There followed a cold and 
dreary hour of bumping and jolting ovw rocks 
and up sudden little cliffs, while the m^i were 
constantly out of sight in the storm : then Kristian's 
voice said '^A-ah, ah,'' and the dogsl stopped 
'^ Stopped" is hardly expressive enough: at the 
word their legs seemed to collapse under them, 
and they curled themselves up where they dropped. 

I confess to a feeling of loneliness as I stood 
beside the sledge, with the snow driving silently past 
and nothing to see at all but the dim outlines of the 
dogs as they curled roimd and went to sleep. The 
occasional moan of the wind made things worse : the 
drivers had vanished into the gloom, and I seemed 
to be alone on the mountain. But a ghostly form 
loomed up, and big Julius, like the thoughtful 
fellow he is, had a word of encouragement to say. 
" We shall build a snow house here." 

Do you know where we are ? " I asked him. 

On the proper sledge-track over Kiglapeit, of 
course," he said; and his tone sounded rather 
surprised, as if it were a preposterous idea that we 


could possibly be off the track. The snow swallowed 
up again, but somehow I felt less chiUy for his 

Happily we had stopped close to a straggling bush, 

so I was able to cut some twigs for a fire without 

any risk of losing myself. I lit my fibre in a niche of 

t\xe rock, and put on a kettlefiil of snow, and then 

st^amped up and down to get a little warmth into me. 

On my way to the snow house I trod on what looked 

like a mound of snow in the river bed. The mound 

^ot up and yelped, and I saw that I was among the 

dogs. They were peacefully blanketed by the snow, 

content to remain buried untU the drivers woke them 

up in the morning. Of supper they had no thought, 

for they had not got over their breakfast by any 

means. The one I had trodden on settled down 

again as soon as he found that the disturbance was 

neither the signal for work nor the beginning of a 

fight, and in a few moments he was, to all intents 

and purposes, a snow-covered stone as before. I 

picked my way carefully among the others, mindful 

of my precious kettle, and struggled through the low 

doorway into the snow house. That particular snow 

house was the smallest I have ever had, for the men 

had no time to waste over comfort ; shelter was all 

we wanted. They gave me the longest diameter, 

but I had to draw my knees up to lie down at all, and 

the uncomfortable cramped attitude would have 

been enough to drive sleep away even if I had not 

suffered the added annoyance of a sleeping-bag 

partly filled with snow. Imagine taking off your 

sodden boots, and poking yoxki stockinged feet into 

what ought to be the snug warmth of a thick, 

blanket-lined sealskin bag, only to meet an icy mass 



of snow I Ugfal I crawled down head first and 
scnped the most of it out ; but the bag was damp 
and cbunmy, and it took me half the night to thaw 
it to a ocHnfwtable waimth. A pint mug of hot tea 
is a wonderful help at a time like that, ev^i if the 
water is smoky and clouded with grits ; and we used 
to fold our hands and ** say grace *' foe those rough 
meals with real thankfulness. But ohl for an 
Eskimo ecMistitution for sledge travellii^. After this 
tear-supper of ours Julius and Kristian lay down to 
rest They had no sleeping-bags; they spread the 
dogs' harness under Ihem so as not to be actually on 
the snow, and piUowed their heads on their arms. 
They had to bend their bodies to fit the curve <^ the 
wall, but before many minutes had passed I heard 
great snores from each side of me. I must have 
dooed towards morning, for I sudd^y felt some- 
body shaking me and poking a mug of tea into my 
hand. The men had left me to sleep whUe they 
harnessed the dogs and made the Inreakfast, and I 
blessed the kindness that spared me the usual long 
shivery time of waiting. 

The weather was worse than ever, but the men 
were quite cheerful about it, although th^ must 
have known that we had a thoroughly dangerous 
task in front of us. To-day we must cross the 
summit of the Kiglapeit mountains, with a MinHi?ig 
snowstorm beating in our faces. But the Eskimos 
were in their element, and at times like. these they 
seem unable to be faint-hearted. 

Off we went into the storm, and the sledge-runners 

groaned as they ploughed heavily through the soft 

snow. For ten or twdve miles the going was plain ; 

our track followed the course of a frosien torrent, 



between hi^ banks, and the dogs had no difficulty 
in picking their way ; but when we got on to the lake 
at the top of the pass the trouble began. The wind 
"WBs blowing in a circle, and gave us no guidance at 
all ; and to me it seemed that we were on an open 
plain of snow, enclosed by whirling walls of white. 
I could see nothing but the snow slipping past 
us as the sledge drove steadily on. Julius sat with 
set face, continually crying *'Hu-it, hu-it" (go 
straight on, go straight on) to the dogs, hoping by 
this means to hit the track again on the other side of 
the lake. An hour slipped by and still there was 
no land, so we stopped the sledge for a confer- 
ence. '^ Ajomarmat " (it cannot be helped), said the 
drivers ; ^* it is useless to look for landmarks, for we 
are still on the lake. We must just drive on and 
hope." We seemed to be travelling fast, for the 
dogs had got over their food of yesterday and were 
frisky and full of energy ; but it was a very blindfold 
sort of work, and I think it was a relief to us all to 
feel the grind of rock under the runners, and to have 
the sensation of going uphill again. We were across 
the lake, though where, and how far from our 
course, we could not tell. The nose of the sledge 
pointed up and up, and then suddenly dipped: we 
were over the ridge on the summit of the Kiglapeit 
mountains, and the men were slipping the heavy 
walrus-hide drags over the nose of each runner in 
readiness for the slide downhill. The sledge began 
to gather way, and I took a good grip of the lashings 
and braced myself to withstand the jolts, for to fall 
off meant certain disaster. Suddenly a cloud of 
powdery snow hissed up as the drags bit the road 

under the runners, and I was flung violently back- 

177 H 


wards against my travelling box. As I fell I had a 

glimpse of the drivers leaning heavily back, with 

heels dug into the snow, straining their utmost to 

stop the sledge. The whining, frightened dogs were 

all about us. Julius turned the sledge bodily upside 

down, to prevent the dogs from running away with 

it, and then, as I came forward to speak to him, he 

held up a warning hand. His laconic <*Ajorkok" 

(it cannot be done) was enough; I knew that we 

had missed the channel that runs between the 

shoulders of the summit, and were on the very brink 

of a slope that runs steeper and ever steeper to end 

in a sheer precipice, down which we might have 

fallen headlong. There was a tight feeUng in my 

throat as I drew back from the giddy depth of 

whirling snowflakes and joined the drivers where 

they stood by the sledge. It had been a narrow 

escape. "We must go back,** said Julius. "No," 

said Kristian, " a Uttle further to the left we can get 

safely down : it is too slow to go back." " Oukagle " 

(but no), said Julius. "Ahailale" (but yes), said 

Kristian; and it looked like the beginning of a 

quarreL They appealed to me. " Go back," I said. 

Kristian heaved the sledge round, and Julius 

trotted over the sledge crest again, calling " Ha, ha, 

ha " to the dogs. For a long time I saw no more of 

him, and more than once Kristian said, " We ought 

to have gone to the left ; too slow, this.** Even the 

dogs were out of sight ; I could see the long trace 

slipping over the snow, with now and again a glimpse 

of the tangled, knotted mass of lines that led away to 

the dogs. The lines were always tight, and I knew 

by that that Julius was somewhere ahead, and the 

dogs were following him. Suddenly he appeared, 



looking a real snow man. ** Here is the track/' he 
announced, and flung himself heavily on to the sledge 
and began to charge his pipe. Now the dogs ran 
yelping on, and the sledge raced after them down the 
slope. The drags were on, but the way was safe, for 
we had recognised the passage between two rocks 
which marked the beginning of the descent to the sea- 
ice, and we drove on with perfect confidence. We 
reached the ice late in the afternoon, and found the 
wind blowing straight from the north. This was a 
help, for it gave us our course across the bay ; but 
the dogs refused to face it, and kept edging away to 
one side or the other, so that once more we had to 
rely on the willing Julius. On he trotted, right in 
the teeth of the wind, with the dogs scampering 
close on his heels. When for a while we skirted the 
land he came back to the sledge for a rest and a 
smoke, but in the open he dived into the storm 
again, and led the dogs on with tales of seals and 
foxes and a house to rest in. At last his words came 
true. '< Iglo, iglo '' (a house, a house), he yelled, and 
stood to let the dogs race by. As he jumped on to 
the sledge he said '^A house; sleep here," and the 
sledge drew up with a biunp and a rattle at the door 
of one of the craziest shacks that it has been my lot to 
see. The door was off its hinges, if it ever had any, 
and the doorway was choked with snow; but we 
dug our way in with hands and snow knives. There 
was a rusty iron stove without a pipe, but we filled 
it with damp twigs and lit it with a stump of candle, 
and sat in the horrible reek. We were warm, and we 
could dry our clothes, even if we were choked. At first 
it was too awful for me, and even the Eskimos grinned 

at it; but when we got the fire nice and hot, and 



turned the back of the stove to the docMrway, we got 
something better, and we hung our boots frcmi the 
rafters and sat down to our toasted but rather frost- 
bitten bread and mutton with quite a feeling of 

But oh, that nig^t! The Eskimos thought we 
were in for a real treat ; there was actually a platform 
bed of moss, as dry as we could wish ; and we lay 
down upon it side by side. Soon I heard the usual 
snores, but I — well, I was in the hands or daws or 
jaws of creatures left by previous occupants of that 
bed. There are no fleas in Labrador, but there are 
things that bite as hard. I will not try to give their 
scientific name, for I never saw them : they just bit 
and fled. I will not prolong the memory of that 
night: suffice it to say that I was glad to see the 
morning. The storm had gone : we could see our 
landmarks, and the only disadvantage was soft snow 
knee deep, through which the dogs slowly wallowed. 
I was worn out. The end of our journey is prosaic 
enough, after the excitement of yesterday, but, be the 
fact prosaic or not, I knew that there was work wait- 
ing for me ; so I got into my sleeping-bag, and the 
drivers laid me on the sledge and tucked me snugly 
in, and there I slept. I woke late in the afternoon 
to the shout of ** Kemmutsit '' (the sledge), and as I 
raised my head I saw the Okak people running 
out to welcome us home. 



A Drowning Accident — A Breakdown on the Mountain — 
Johannes in a Storm — Crossing a Crevice 

ODDLY enough) a drowning accident was the 
cause of my next sledge journey. The message 
came, as Labrador messages do, sudden and terse, 
carried by two stolid men post haste over the hills 
as soon as the ice was firm enough for them to traveL 
There had been a drowning accident in November, 
wrote the superintendent ; would I go and teach the 
people life-saving drill? The messengers were be- 
sieged with anxious questions, and from their laconic 
answers I pieced together the story of the mishap. 
It appears that a strong storm was blowing, and 
some of the men home from the seal-hunt saw their 
big boat beginning to drag its anchor. Absorbed by 
the idea of saving their boat, four of them put off 
from the beach in a little flat-bottomed punt; and 
after a short battle with the waves over they went. 
Eskimos are no swimmers; they are more used to 
ice than water ; and it is no wonder that the poor 
feUows made but a feeble fight against the stormy 
sea. One of them was floundering face downwards 
when a big wave caught him and cast him on a 
boidder, where he sprawled, gasping and half choked : 
the other three had never a chance, and their bodies 
were washed up on the beach half-an-hour later. 
A plucky little Eskimo put out in a punt and 

managed to save the man on the boulder at the risk 



of his life, nmnaging somehow to keep the punt 
afloat and tow the drowning man into safety, and 
that is the end of the story. My drivers entered 
very heartily into the idea of another journey to 
Nain, and started my sledge on a raw February 
morning with characteristic determination and energy. 
But they were beaten for once : the snow fell thicks 
and thicker as we went along, and after doing ten 
miles they stopped and offered me my choice be- 
tween camping and turning back. As for them- 
selves, I know that they would certainly have 
camped ; but, as usual, they left the decision to me, 
and I argued the question out for myself while they 
waited. They would have felt just as much at home 
in a snow hut as anywhere else, and frozen food 
would have suited them perfectly ; but the European 
constitution finds it a terrible trial to live in a freez- 
ing atmosphere without warmth of any sort, and I 
knew very well that my teeth and digestion would 
both fail if I gave them nothing but blocks of frozen 
meat and slabs of stone*hard bread to work upon, so 
I chose to go back. So it comes about that I cannot 
give a vivid description of weary days and nights 
spent shivering in a little snow bee-hive with the 
storm whurling noisily outside, but instead I can 
look back with thankfulness, and record how I was 
spared that most awful of Labrador experiences. 
Others that I know have had it to endure— quiet, 
lion-hearted missionaries, or brave, hardy settler 
men — ^and they point to a limp, or a frosted hand 
or foot, as a memento of the time. 

« Go back," I said. 

Julius swung the sledge round with never a 

word, and Johannes straightened the harness and 



shouted the bedraggled dogs into movement again. 
He sat by me on the sledge, and thumped my 
shoulders to shake off the snow» and shouted in my 
ear ** Going back is best for you : you would only 
fre eze out here/' 

After that the two drivers sat like solid men of 
snow, and only came to life when their pipes wanted 
filling or when the dogs threatened to stop. The 
sledge toiled slowly on, creaking and groaning 
through the soft new snow, and the dogs seemed to 
be finding the way for themsdves. I was mystified 
untilJohannes told me that we were on the wood 
track. << Dogs come this far every day," he shouted ; 
''they know the road." It was a wearisome kind 
of travelling, with nothing to be seen but a whirl of 
snowflakes, and nothing to vary the monotony : the 
drivers sat still and puffed, and I sat still and 

After we had crossed the last neck of land before 
Okak Bay, we ran into fine weather, and no doubt 
the village was rather surprised to see us back so 
soon. The people came running over the ice to 
meet us, fearing that something had gone wrong, 
and shouting in alarm; but the first sight of the 
three of us all heaped with snow must have been 
enough to tell them what things were like behind 
the hill, and no doubt the drivers had plenty to say 
over the pipes during the evening. 

Three days later we made another start, when 

the storm had blown itself out, and found very little 

of the snowfall of the previous days : the wind had 

swept it away and banked it into huge drifts among 

the trees, so that our road upon the frozen sea was 

none the worse. But though our first day's run was a 



good one, and we were able to build our snow house 
on the summit of the Kiglapeit Pass, half way to 
Nain, there was sufficient excitement in the second 
day to make the trip a memorable (me. 

The Eskimos say that there is always wind in 
the mountains, but on that second morning the 
wind was much too strong for comfort, though the 
men assured me that it was quite safe to travel 
But the mountain stream, which is the winter road, 
was clear of snow, and the dogs could not keep their 
feet upon it. Each puff of wind sent them riddding 
about, howling with terror, and the sure-footed little 
Johannes was kept hard at work lifting the traces 
OTer rocks and points of ice while the heavy sledge 
came bowling after him. 

Things were even worse with the sledge. Julius 
and I were clinging to it, trjring to keep its nose 
to the front, but the gusts swirled it hither and 
thither and flung us from side to side like corks. 
At last we came to a frozen waterfiedl, and the dogs 
took to the bank. Julius tugged and strained and 
put forth all his strength and cunning, but the ice 
was like glass and the sledge would not turn; the 
runners could get no grip upon the sUppery surface, 
and we were helpless in front of the wind. 

After a short few moments of anxious clinging 
we came up against a boulder, and over we went 
with a crash. I remember quite well that as I was 
flung from my hold on the sledge and went sliding 
down the frozen river I heard Johannes's voice from 
the bank shouting '' Ah — ah — ah '* to make the dogs 
lie down. 

I picked mjrself up and made my precarious way 

to the sledge by clinging to the boulders — ^it was 



impossible to walk in the ordinary way because of 
the wind whistling down stream — and found the 
drivers holding a palaver over a smashed runner. 
They displayed no con^eroation at our plight, and 
had very little to say ; at times Uke that the Eskimo 
is a man of action, and it seemed quite natural that 
with a short grunt of explanation little Johannes 
pulled an axe from among the load firmly lashed to 
the upturned sledge and trotted off on an errand 
of his own. 

Meanwhile, Julius was looking for his gun, which 
he had tucked along the floor of my travelling box, 
and I was amazed to see him load it and start firing 
at the broken runner. He was using great bullets 
that he had most likely intended for reindeer, and 
the effect of each shot was to bore a good-sized hole 
in the wood. He placed eight of them at intervals 
along the runner, some near the top and some near 
the bottom, and then coolly poUshed out his gun 
with a wad of tow and made it fast on the sledge 

By this time Johannes was in sight on the river 
bank, carr3ring a long, thin tree over his shoulder ; 
and Julius set to work to find a spare length of 
seal-hide trace somewhere among his travelling 
equipment If only the crash had not jarred my 
camera open, and fogged every one of the plates, I 
should have had a series of unique pictures of the 
sledge-mending; as it was, I was sufficiently fasci- 
nated to forget the February cold while I stood and 
watched those two Eskimos at work. They chopped 
the tree to the proper length, and flattened it a little 
on one side; then they threaded the line through 

the shot holes and bound the tree to the broken 



runner. '*Taimak" (that will do), they said» and 
moved away to get the dogs ready. In a few 
minutes they were lighting their pipes for another 
start, and we bumped and slid and twisted down 
the river as if nothing had happened. I noticed 
that Julius kept the sound runner towards the 
boulders, as if he hardly eared to put the patched 
one to any strain, but we jolted over the ridges and 
raced down the slopes in quite an ordinary way, and 
made the descent of the pass to the sea-ice in average 

For an hour or two after leaving the mountains 
we enjoyed fine weather, but as the afternoon wore 
on and the sim sank the wind began to follow us 
again. The air had a queer threatening chill in it ; 
little eddies of snow came whirling along the floor, 
whisking roimd us and poking up our sleeves and 
down our necks, and the dogs dropped their tails 
and huddled together and whined as they ran. 
Within half-an*hour we were in the thick of the 
drift, and I found that running before a storm is 
no more pleasant than facing it. Johannes, who 
was sitting by me, pulled his sealskin dicky over 
him, and shouted ** Ananaulungitok-ai " (this is not 
nice), and I shouted my <* Ahaila '' back at him with 
some little apprehension; I knew that it is some- 
thing out of the ordinary that makes an Eskimo 
driver put on sealskins over his blanket and calico, 
but the men always had a word of explanation for 
me. " All right," shouted Johannes, ** very cold now : 
get to Nain soon," and then he turned his back to 
the wind, and sat drumming on the runners with 
his feet to let the dogs think that the driver had 

his eye on them. As a matter of &ct the dogs 



i^ere out of sight ; I could hear no sound of them 

above the roaring of the wind, and there was 

nothing to be seen but the main hauling trace 

quivering away into the drift and the white floor 

slipping past. 

As long as daylight lasted I could understand 

how the drivers found the way, because all the flying 

snow seemed to be whipped up from the floor, and 

in the occasional lulls of the wind we caught sight of 

the clifis and mountainii alongside of us. In fact, 

when the sledge rose up to cross a neck of land we 

gradually drew above the drift, and could look back 

and see the sea-ice covered with a rushing cloud of 

powdery snow that seemed like driven smoke. But 

when night fell, and the storm roared louder, I began 

to wonder how we should fare. The dogs were tiring, 

and would not turn ; they wanted the storm behind 

them ; and when all landmarks were swallowed up in 

the drift and the darkness, and there was nothing for 

me to see but an occasional glimpse of the stars or 

the dull glow of the drivers' pipes as they stuffed the 

tobacco down with their tiiumbs, little Johannes 

pulled off his sealskin dicky — ^and I knew that he 

was going to run ahead. ^* Sit on the sledge, or you 

will get lost," he yelled, and trotted into the dark. 

It seemed hours before I saw him again, and then I 

suddenly found him beside me. *^ Are you cold ? " he 

shouted, and slipped off the sledge again to join Julius 

where he was wrestling, with hands and teeth, with 

the frozen and tangled traces. I hardly knew that 

the sledge had stopped, but presently Johannes ran 

off again, and there was a mighty jerk as the dogs 

got up to follow him. The next stop was dramatic. 

Miles and miles we seemed to have run, when sud- 



denly the sledge went grinding over pebbles, and I 
heard Julius's big voice roaring '' Ah." I ran forward, 
and found that we had stopped close to a huge 
boulder, about the size of a cottage. Johannes ap- 
peared from the darkness ahead, and said, with a 
jerk of his thumb towards the boulder, '< We ought 
to be on the other side of that." ** lUale " (certainly), 
answered Julius, and swung the nose of the sledge 
round. ** Ha-harha " piped Johannes, and the dogs 
went after him round the boulder. I could see very 
little £rom my seat at the back of the sledge ; even 
Julius, a few feet in front of me, was no more than a 
sUent shape, a sort of petrified man; though 1 had 
evidence that he was very wide awake by his sudden 
lurches and heaves, and the kicks that he gave to the 
snow, when the sledge needed turning to one side or 
the other ; and that his keen eyes were wide open in 
the dark I knew by the alacrity with which he sud- 
denly jumped off and hauled the sledge to one side 
to keep the runner from slipping into a crack. Apart 
from these little outbursts of energy he seemed well 
content to sit still and chew his pipe, with his back 
to the wind and his feet dangling close to the floor. 
He certainly did not seem to be suffering from cold 
toes, and if I had remarked upon the fact he would 
probably have said '* Ahaila, I am an Eskimo.'* 

As for myself, I could find no pleasure in sitting 
stock still ; I wanted to run for warmth, but running 
was an impossibility because of the unevenness of the 
snow. The Eskimo has a high-stepping gait that 
serves him very well over rough snow in the dark, 
but it is not an easy gait to leam, and only those 
bred on the Labrador manage it. For me it was a 
case of '* sit still," as Johannes had said ; so the next 


The Unwilling Puppy 

Tbc paprta naive Ibeir InEning at lbs bindi of the Eilciino bori, wbo bmmisi ibi 
CDDpe] lh«n Ed dnf imall iledgn or bloclca or iix. The puppid rescnE this tnAtmcl 
pitoou bovlt uid ft moil nfgrAvftCtEig uubbomneB, but itficr ii fev dayi tb«y ft 
prgpor hablu. 

A Slbikib Party 

drii«r nopt thui and undoes th« knot with tail 


time the sledge stopped I got the polar bear's skin 
that was lashed over the load, and wrapped myself in 
that for warmth. The little man from ahead had his 
usual word of encouragement for me : ** Nain in one 
hour/* he said ; ** no more stops/' " However will 
you find Nain ? " I asked him. He waited until the 
next lull in the wind, and pointed upwards. ** Do 
you see that bright star ? " he said ; ** that star is right 
over Nain : the people say that if it were to fall it 
would fall on the village : we go under that star *' — 
and away he went, and I felt the jerk as the sledge 
started after him. Sure enough, in one hour we raced 
up the slope to the village of Nain, and the dogs roused 
the people out of their houses with their yelping. 

No doubt Johannes gave me what seemed to 
him the proper explanation of his method of finding 
the way in the dark of the storm ; he was steering by 
the star ; but I think that he hardly explained the 
marvellous gift of finding the way that Eskimos have. 
In blinding snowstorms, and in black darkness under 
cloudy skies, they go from point to point, silent and 
self-possessed, knowing places by the dimmest gUmpse 
of some headland or the merest outline of a rock 
peering through the gloom. More than once I have 
travelled with them when my eyes could see nothing 
at all, nothing but driving snow, and they have trotted 
on without the least hesitation or uneasmess, abso- 
lutely certain that they would '' get there." It seems 
to me Uke a sixth sense — ^the sense of direction — ^the 
same sense that animals display. 

On our way home from Nain we passed the big 

boulder. It lay on the frozen beach, at the foot of 

a jutting point : on each side there stretched a wide 

bay. We had crossed the northern bay in the drift, 



and had found the boulder after the crossmg, only 
we had tried to pass on the hindward side of it, where 
the wind had swept a path clear of snow and strewn 
with the beach pebbles. I wondered how we had 
managed to hit it at all ; but as we passed it that 
morning in the clear winter sunshine Johannes gave 
a shrug, and said ** I got on the wrong side of that 1 " 

Partly, I suppose, his remark was an expression 
of the scrupulous exactness of the Eskimo mind — 
the same exactness that is seen in the little models of 
sledges and canoes that the men make in their spare 
time : every bit of the innermost working, however 
hidden it may be from sight, is an exact reproduction 
of the real thing; the natural tendency of the 
Eskimo is to be thorough. 

Partly it showed Johannes's simple fSEuth in his 
own gifts as a guide — ^no brag ; utter simplicity. 

No one is more careful than an Eskimo sledge- 
driver, and the quiet watchfulness to avoid every 
hindrance, and to steer clear of every danger, is part of 
his nature. No wonder that the driver is always on the 
move. No chance droppings from the dogs must 
soil the bright runners, or the sledge will run heavily, 
so off the driver jumps and heaves the big sledge 
around ; every crevice must be crossed squarely, so 
that there is no risk of the runners slipping down ; 
there must be no needless bumping over hummoeks 
or frozen waves of snow, and when there must needs 
be bumps the men use their strength to let the sledge 
fall gently ; and so it comes about that sledge travel- 
ling with Eskimo drivers is as safe as sledge travelling 
can be. 

On the way home from one of our journeys in 

the springtime, we found that the tides had played 



havoc with the ice ; a crack four or five feet wide lay 
across the track, and there seemed to be no way of 
g^etting round it ** We must go across/' said the men. 
The first thing was to fling or shove the dogs into 
the water one by one ; they made a great to-do about 
it, but the drivers pushed them all in, and the terrified 
creatures were soon shaking themselves on the other 
side. The next thing was to push the sledge along 
until the front of it bridged the crack and the runners 
xv^ere touching the other side ; then with a great howl 
of '' Hu-it *' big Julius started the dogs and we all 
jumped on to the sledge as it careered safely over. 
Then the drivers turned and looked at one another, 
and laughed ; it was, to them, a spice of excitement 
in the monotony of sledge travel. 



Danikl — A Hundred Milks in an Open Boat — ^Daniel 
A8 Coos — ^Daniel's House — The old Widow 

A FTER the bustle of winter sledge travel, the 
Xx ^uly days of July seemed to me the dreariest 
time of the whole year. The ice on the bay was 
broken, and the water was packed close with the 
floating pieces. It seemed a dreary time, because we 
were so shut in ; no sledges, no boats, no exercise but 
walks on the sloppy beach or the softening snow on 
the hills. Most of the people had gone to their 
sealing camps, and the few who were left in the 
village had turned their sledges upside down on the 
roofs of their houses and were busy at the tarring of 
their wooden boats, waiting eagerly for the ice to 
float away and leave the water clear for them. And 
yet it was on a July day in 1905 that there came 
the excitement of a shout of ''Umiat, umiat" (a 

It had nearly reached the jetty before we saw it, 
a big white boat with a crew of four sturdy Eskimos, 
who poled their precarious way between the ice- 
pans ; and when the Okak people saw the faces of the 
men they gave a great shout of '' Nainemiut " (Nain 

I met the four men as they trotted up the jetty, 

and found, as I had expected, that it was an urgent 

call that had brought them across a hundred miles of 

ice-packed sea at a time of year when the Eskimos 


Thb Author in TRAvsLLma Costume 

tn wlikin from hud In tool, wlih an Dndcf.iuil of blankti. Tlia but of tlM L>b»( 
ba| bcbind ii ■!» ^ Ki)<liin, with i double lining of reindnr ikia and blin 


are wont to say about traveUing ** Ajorkok " (it cannot 
be done). 

But the boatmen had very little to say about their 
trip ; all they wanted was tliat I should find a fifth 
man, so that they might rest by turns from the 
rowing — ** Okiunaidlarpok-iUa '' (very hard work). 
So I surveyed the village in my mind's eye, search- 
ing for a likely boatman among the few who had not 
gone to the seal-hunt. And I thought of Daniel. 

I knew Daniel as a good and handy workman, so 
I sent for him. Soon he came shyly in — ^a short, 
square man with a broad back and muscular limbs, 
and, above all, a willing^ good-natured face. He 
seemed to have discarded his characteristic *^ dicky," 
and was in his summer costume of an ancient jersey, 
left him, no doubt, by some fisherman from New- 
foundland ; and he stood waiting, with the expectant 
air that he always wore when there was work to be 

^' Are you ready to start for Nain at six o'clock 
to-morrow morning ? ^ 

** Yes," said Daniel, without a moment's hesita- 
tion, and no more perturbed than if I had asked him 
to do one of the everyday things at which he is so 
handy. ** Ahaila," he repeated, and turned and went 

When I walked down the jetty in the morning 
the four Nain men were at their places : the tallest, 
chosen captain by his mates, was in the bows with 
a pole, scrutinising the ice-field; the others were 
leaning over their oars, smoking and chatting and 
exchanging gossip with the people who had gathered 
to see us off. 

Stroke-oar was vacant; but even as I looked 

198 N 


about for Daniel, the man himself came lurdung 
along hugging a big stone. 

** Aksuse,** he said, and dropped the stone gently 
into the boat. The others took no notice, beyond 
the usual ** Ah/' and Daniel ambled off again. For 
fully five minutes he went on with his task of 
collecting stonra, and at last I asked him» ''Are 
these for ballast?"' Daniel grinned and twinkled. 
** Me cook/' he said, and settled to his oar. '' Taimak, 
hai ? '' said the captain* '' Taimak,'' I answered from 
my place by the rudder, and we were off. 

I really think that the first few miles out of 
Okak were the slowest that I have ever travelled, 
not even excepting mauja-travelling on a sledge 
trip. The pace was a trifle faster than standing still, 
and that is about the best that I can say for it 

Happily the day was calm, or we could never 
have moved at alL The method of getting along 
was simple enough in a way. The oarsmen stood 
facing the bows, so as to see what was ahead ; some- 
times they dipped their oars in the water, but more 
often there was not enough water within reach, and 
they had to shove the boat along by pushing with 
their oars on the ice. The captain stood up with his 
pole, carefidly keeping the boat from bumping the 
ice, and separating the pans to make a passage, and 
all the while he never ceased from muttering orders 
to the rowers. The boat's nose was never pointing 
in one direction for more than a minute or two; 
north, south, east, and west we steered, and once we 
were in the ridiculous position of having to wriggle a 
hundred yards back towards Okak in our search for 
a way. Things went quietly enough as long as we 
were in the shelter of the bay, but outside we met 


tJtie tide, and found ourselves in a field of ice that 

^^as constantly on the move. The captain leaned on 

his pole, darting this way and that, and yelling his 

oiHlers at the top of his voice, and tlie willing 

boatmen toiled and shoved. At one moment the boat 

-^VBS leaping forward through a clear channel ; at the 

i:mext, a big ice-pan would eatch it and fling it round 

^^dth a shudder, while the men strove to hold it off 

^with their oars and perspired with the exertion. It 

^veas an excitinir time, but we irot through without 

d«..g.; -.dTfdt » much rdifved » tl^ Eddmos 

^%^hen we came to a stretch of open water and left 

1;he churning ice behind us. About midday a light 

l>reeze sprang up, and the men heaved a great sigh of 

relidf as they drew in their oars. In a minute they 

had got the sails up, and the captain came jumping 

over the thwarts and took the tiller. 

Two of the oarsmen made their way to the deep 
bows, and sat there chatting and filling their pipes ; 
another just feU asleep where he was, sprawling over 
his oar; while Daniel looked up at me with a 
twinkle, and said again, ^' Me cook." 

He seemed to enjoy my mystification, for his 
next move was to pull a great butcher-knife from a 
sheath hanging at his belt, and carefully sharpen it 
on the palm of his hand. This was his hunting- 
knife, his dinner-knife, the knife he used for cutting 
his tobacco and for all the uses possible to imagine, 
and 1 wondered what strange new use he had in his 
mind for the well-worn tool. When it was sharp 
enough, he chose a nice piece of firewood firom a pile 
at his feet, and began to whittle shavings, looking 
up with his characteristic grin to repeat his joke — 

*^Mecook, eh?" 



When the pile of shavings had grown large 
enough to earn a contemplative nod of satisfaction, 
he betook himself to his heap of stones. He cleared 
a space on the wet floor of the boat, and laid a big 
fiat stone upon it, then he built a wall of smaller 
stones around it, and filled up the hollow with 
shavings and wood. Then he knelt down and struck 
a match, and carefully lit his fire, poking and pufiSng 
at it to make it burn. In a few minutes a trail of 
smoke was streaming away into the air behind us, 
and Daniel came to the triumphant climax of his 

** Pujolik, pujolik " (a steamer), he yelled. 

The two men chatting in the bows jumped up 
with a start ; the steersman awoke firom his apathy 
and gazed about him ; even the man sprawling across 
the oar roused himself and raised his sleepy eyes; 
and Daniel roared with glee at the success of his 
little plot. ** Pujolik,*' he shouted, pointing to the 
smoke, and we all entered into the spirit of the thing 
and laughed boisterously. 

Soon the sleepy head dropped again ; the steerman's 
eyes once more took on their dreamy stare ; the men 
in the bows scraped and filled their pipes, and 
returned to their chatting; and Daniel turned to 
his fire with a chuckle, and said, *' Now, me cook.'' 
He seemed to have everything at hand, for he 
produced a kettle and a keg of water from apparently 
nowhere with the unconcern of a professional con- 
juror, and then he foraged in the provision-box for 
the tin of tea. Oh, Daniel ! where did you leam to 
make tea? I am thankful that the Eskimos like 
their tea weak, for Daniel's method was to put a 

pinch of tea in the kettle, fill it up with cold water, 



a.nd set it on the fire. In a quarter of an hour or so 

I>a.niel was doling the boiling stuff into tin mugs, 

and we were stirring the molasses in to suit our own 

fancy. I enjoyed my lunch, for anything hot is 

^^^^come on a Labrador journey. I have had too 

xnany drinks of icy water, or lukewarm tea from a 

stone jar carefully wrapped in skins, not to appreciate 

]I>aniel's tea. Aye, one might fare worse ; and well 

£or the traveller if he has a thoughtful man in the 

l>oat, with a kettle and a heap of stones. 

Towards evening we once more entered the ice- 
field, and steered slowly between the heavy pans 
as they edged to and fro with the gentle swell ; and 
at dusk we made the anchor fast among the stones of 
an islet at the foot of Cape Kiglapeit, and with half 
our journey done we sat upon the rocks around the 
bubbling tea-kettle, and sang our evening hymn. 
The men cleared a space on the floor of the boat, 
and spread the sail for an awning, and I laid me 
down in my sealskin sleeping-bag and listened to 
the lapping of the water. Before morning the 
lapping had ceased : the water was frozen round the 
boat, even on a July night. 

These Eskimos are a hardy folk. I found my 
five boatmen sleeping on a patch of moss among 
the rocks, snoring contentedly in the cold air without 
so much as a blanket among them ; and they woke 
in the morning fresh and bright, and while I was 
talking to Daniel over his breakfast cookery I spied 
them scanning the ice-field from the highest point 
of our island. 

It was a beautiful spring morning, and the men 
sang and laughed as they pushed the boat among the 

ice. Daniel was in his element; he skipped from 



one part of the boat to another, always seeming 
to be in the very thick of the work ; and once he 
seized a rope and ran over the ice to haul us throu^ 
a narrow passage, while the others lolled and filled 
their pipes again, and made remarks about Daniel 
being a ** Fujolik, ai " (steamer again). Daniel came 
to a sudden stop, and shouted, '< Jump out, all of 
you," and in a moment we were on the ice dragging 
the boat across, high and dry, to plump it into the 
water again on the other side of the floe. At midday 
we anchored against a small iceberg, and Daniel 
clambered upon it to fill his kettle at a pool that 
the sun was making in a hollow; then we poled 
on again while the tea was warming over the fireplace 
of stones. There was a short rest for the men during 
the afternoon, when the sails were up and we beat 

to and firo along a sheltered run; but soon the 
captain said something that brought forth a chorus 
of ** Aha's,'' and caused a general turning of heads. 
There was a peculiar turbulence about the water in 
front of us, and there was something familiar about 
the hills around ; there on the right was the b^pn- 
ning of the sledge-pass over Kiglapeit, and we were 
entering on the piece of water that never freezes. 
Soon we were tumbling and twisting among the 
currents of a sort of miniature whirlpool, and the 
oarsmen were straining and shouting in time while 
the captain steadied the boat as well as he could 
with the long sculling-oar at the stem. 1 had seen 
the black spot of water on the white sheet of ice 
only a month or two before, and many a time as 
we passed the place on our winter journeys I had 
wondered why Julius led the dogs close us^der the 
rock. All the explanation he had given me was 


*' Sikkokarungnaipok-^tava " (never frozen) ; but now 
I understood how the power of the battling currents 
^ves the ice no chance to set, even in the bitter 
cold of January. 

The men were exhausted by the time the currents 
i^ere bubbling half a mile behind us, and nodded 
and grinned with appreciation when I suggested 
supper. I decided on hot meat; but as we had 
only one cooking utensil the tea and meat would 
have to ^take turns, and Daniel chuckled as he 
helped me to scrape the mutton out of the tin into 
his usefid kettle. We anchcn^ at the mouth of a 
little brook that was trickling through the melting 
snow, and within a few minutes we were eating our 
mutton out of our teacups while the kettle sat on 
the fire filled with its usual cold water and tea-leaves. 
We rinsed our cups at the rivulet, and drank the hot 
tea thankfully ; then I took out the Bible, and the 
men clustered round me for the evening reading. 
I sat afterwards gazing at the lowering sky, while 
the captain spread the sail over my sleeping-place 
in the stem, and the others lay on the moss and 
smoked. The captain came to me. ^' Storm to- 
morrow," he said ; ** you go to sleep now ; we row 
all night " ; and without another word he called to 
the oarsmen and hauled the anchor up from the 
water. Good-hearted fellows ; how I admired their 
pluck. Rather than risk delay they would toil all 
night at the oars, because the wind was coming, 
and to-morrow it might be impossible to travel 
among the ice-pans. 

As I lay in the dark under the sail I could hear 
the rhythmic creaking of the boards under the feet 

of the captain, as he stood at my head rolling his 



heavy scuUing-oar, and I could hear the steady thump 
of the oars against the thole-pms, and the si¥ish and 
drip of the water; and, lulled by the measured 
sounds and rocked by the gentle roll, I feU asleep. 
I woke in the dark hour before the dawning, and 
heard the sound of singing; it was Daniel's voice, 
crooning a favourite hynm. Presently the others 
took up the song, and sang, so softly, so as not to 
wake me up, but keeping time to the plashing of 
their oars. Hymn after hymn they sang to pass the 
night away. Soon after sunrise we reached the wide 
open water that narrows towards Nain, and then 
up went the sail and in came the oars, and with the 
water hissing past us and the ropes groaning and the 
mast creaking under the strain of the wind we raced 
into Nain harbour. 

The people were waiting on the jetty. They 
shouldered the bags and boxes ; the boatmen stowed 
away the sail and oars, and anchored the boat, and 
then went home to sleep, smiling and good-humoured 
to the end. 

That was the beginning of my closer acquaintance 
with Daniel ; indeed, we are such good Mends that 
I have even heard him talk about his hunting ex- 
ploits. « Aha," says Daniel, « when I was a young 
man I met a bear, and hadn't any gun — ai, ai" — 
and up went his fingers, stiff and straight, to show 
how his hair stood on end — ^''^ai, ai, I don't know 
which was the more fiightened, I or the bear; for 
after we had stood and looked at one another for 
a long time, the bear turned and ran away. If it 
had not run away, I suppose I should have run 
myself. I went home for my gun; and next day 
I found its tracks and shot iJie bear." 



Daniel's house is an architectural curiosity. For 
some reason, or perhaps for no reason at all, it is at 
t;he very end of the village, furthest from the church, 
fiirthest &om the store, furthest from the jetty where 
the boats are moored. In front is the usual porch, 
open to the weather and tenanted by the dogs. The 
door is fastened by a wooden latch, which you can 
lift from the outside by pulling a bobbin that dangles 
from a thong of seal-Idde. Inside you find yourself 
in a square space where stands an iron stove, and 
from a big bubbling pot on the top of the stove 
there is generally rising the savoury smell of seal- 
meat stew. Seals and skins and wooden pans of 
blubber are strewed about the floor ; a keg of water 
stands near the widl, and a rough bedstead fills a 

But this is only the smaller part of DanieFs 
house; the larger part lies further in. It is a big 
oblong shack, with a sloping roof and walls hung 
with dingy illustrated papers ; and it is placed cross- 
wise, so that the little square part of the house looks 
into it from one side. In the middle of the oblong 
is a table, surrounded by the customary wooden 
boxes that serve for seats and storage places; at 
the two ends are sleeping places, roughly partitioned 
off. A peep behind the partitions discloses an array 
of bunks, where the children sleep ; a variable array, 
sometimes one above the other like berths on board 
ship, sometimes side by side. I have seen the bunks 
witiiout sides, and once I found one of them missing 
altogether, but this was after one of our Labrador 
storms had kept everybody indoors for a couple of 
days, and the stock of firewood had dwindled. 

After the storm one of the boys drove away to 



the woods with the three dogs and fetched more 
firewood^ and Daniel himself trotted along to the 
store and got an old packing-case and spent the 
rest of the day at the necessary piece of plain 

I could see with half an eye that DanieFs house 
had not all been built at one time; it looked like 
two small houses joined together; and it was not 
until Daniel had pointed to an old, old woman 
crouching on the bed in the little square part, a 
pathetic figure whom I hsd overlooked, that I hit 
upon the real meaning of the queer architecture. 
'^That poor old woman/' said he, "was left all 
alone when her husband died. She had nobody 
to take care of her, so my boys and I brought our 
house along and built it up at the back of the old 
woman's hut — takka" — and he pointed to the 
oblong portion. ''It was a good thing for us all, 
for we all have plenty of room, and one stove 
warms us alL" Yes, I thought, and in his un- 
conscious way Daniel has done that old widow 
a thoroughly characteristic Eskimo act of kindness. 
Poor old soul, she is blind and deaf, and can do 
little else but sit over the stove and enjoy the 
genial warmth; but an Eskimo likes to work to 
the last, and I have seen even that old blind widow 
sitting behind a snow-wall on the winter ice, patiently 
jigging for fish, until the sun began to sink and a 
little child came out to lead her home« 

Such is DanieFs household ; and Daniel himself, 

an ordinary, everyday Eskimo, goes in and out as 

he follows his hunting and his daily work. He is 

just an Eskimo, with his little foresight, and his 

socialistic openhandedness, and his weaknesses and 



his limitations ; but the good in him comes from the 
one source of all good, and for him some day there 
will be the Master's voice — " Inasmuch as ye 
did it unto one of the least of these, ye did it 
unto Me." 



Oqt with the Skal-Hunterb — ^Thk Harpoon — Shooting a Seal — 
A Gruksomb Custom — Hauuno the Nets 

THE last few weeks before the freezing of the 
sea are a busy time for the Eskimos : the whole 
village is in the ferment of a new excitement, for the 
seal-hunt is beginning. 

As I strolled along the snow-covered path that 
runs in front of the huts I found men and boys 
busily getting their kajaks ready for the water, lift- 
ing them down from house-tops and scaffold poles, 
searching for leaky places, smoothing the handles of 
pautiks (paddles), bustling to and fro with harpoons 
and loops of line, beaming with eagerness, and evi- 
dently looking forward to their favourite season. 
Every year it was the same, and I watched the pre- 
parations with interest ; but my interest was doubled 
when Jerry touched my sleeve and said, ** Kaigit," 
(come), and gave me a place in the stem of his 
boat to see the fun. 

If I had thought that I was in for a mad chase 
among the waves I was to be disappointed, for I 
soon found that nets were the order of the hunt 
— nets stretched along the sea-bed in some weU- 
known and favourite channel or inlet, with a patient 
waiting in a smoky hut till morning, when the nets 
would be hauled. 

I envied the men in the kajaks ; they were after 
seals in the proper old style, with their ingenious 



walrus-tusk harpoons; but there is no room for a 
passenger in a kajak, and I had to content myself 
with watching from a distance. And I had another 
disillusionment, for Jerry shot a seal with his Win- 
chester rifle. The Eskimo is fond of his rifle ; it 
makes his hunting so much easier, but it takes a lot 
of the picturesque away. And it is chasing the 
animals away, too. It seemed a fairly natural thing 
for an Eskimo to go after a walrus or a white bear 
with kajak and harpopn; the creature must have 
felt that it was meeting its great enemy on equal 
terms; but when the rifle comes in the man has, 
from the bear's or walrus's point of view, an almost 
uncanny advantage. An unnatural element enters 
into the hunt ; the animals became more wary ; they 
are more frightened than ever by the smell of man ; 
and away they go to the far north, where they can 
fish and gambol unmolested. But happily — ^from 
the picturesque point of view — your Eskimo is too 
conservative to give up the ways of his fathers ; he 
stm likes to shoulder his kajak or balance it on his 
head, and pick his way among the stones to the sea, 
and launch it with its weird and ingenious equip- 
ment all ready for seal-hunting. The harpoon lies 
ready at his right; and as he wields his paddle 
he is always on the alert to let drive at the seal 
as it pops up for air. The skill with the harpoon 
is a tiling that the Eskimos have not lost, nor will 
they lose it, I hope, till the end of time. When 
I look at the haipoon that hangs upon my wall, 
my mind travels back across the centuries to a 
time when the Eskimos first learnt to hunt ; and I 
imagine the hunter spearing the seal with a long 

straight spear. A seal is a ponderous beast, and 



agile withal ; and I caa imagine the creature, stung 

by the sharp stab, diving with a jerk so sudden that 

the spear broke short. This meant losing both seal 

and spear; and seals and spears were precious. I 

imagine one of these old hunters having a flash of 

genius, the sort of flash that sometimes eomes to 

these native peoples, and saying to himself, ** If my 

spear must break, I will make a joint so that it may 

break without being spoilt." Or perhaps it came 

more slowly, and so some one who could not get a 

new head for his spear bored holes in the broken 

pieces with his flint boring-tool, and bound the 

broken ends together with seal-hide thongs ; and, lo 

and behold, next time he used his spear it broke 

again at the mended place, and he bound it up again 

wondering. Whether with a sudden inspiration, or 

with the slower method of a gradual evolution from 

that mended spear, no man can say ; but I imagine 

a time dawning when aU the spears were jointed at 

the head, and the hunters flung them with an added 

eagerness because they knew that the problem of 

smashed harpoons was solved. The evolution of the 

harpoon went on ; the spear was a deadly thing ; it 

killed, but it did not hold, and so some thoughtful 

mind invented a barb. 

The tusk which forms the head of the spear 

cannot well be carved into a barbed shape, because 

it is too slender. So came the next thing : the barb 

must be separate, bound on with a thong ; and then 

the hunter made the discovery of his life. When 

the head broke at its joint the thong, of course, fell 

slack — and the barb fell off. Now the harpoon was 

perfect. No need to risk the loss of the precious 

tusk ; the barb would do the work. Liet the line that 



held it in place on the tip of the spear be a long one, 
with a loop to hitch on to a knob on the shaft, and 
with a bladder or float at the other end, thirty or 
forty feet away. The seal might dash off or dive as 
fast as it liked ; the shaft and jointed head would be 
shaken free and would float on the water, but there 
would be no shaking free from the keen grip of the 
barb with its long trailing line and bobbing float. 

This Uttle flight of imagination in which I have 
indulged is, to my mind, the true explanation of one 
of the most marvellous weapons that I have ever 
seen — ^the real Eskimo harpoon. 

No skilled mechanic has helped in its making; 
it is the pure outcome of native genius, the finished 
product of generations of hunting. Over it the 
hunter spends long hours of patient scraping and 
rubbing and boring and fitting ; the socketed joint 
is as neat and firm as clever hands can make it ; 
and the result is that the harpoon in the hands of a 
modem Eskimo hunter does what he expects it to 
do, and does it every time. 

The man sits bdanced in his dancing kajak, and 
flings his harpoon at the fat neck of the seal as it 
pops up for a breath of air. The animal feels the 
sudden pain, and dives with a lurch. 

The hunter calmly and methodically reaches for 
the blown-up skin that lies behind him, and drops 
it on the waves. He knows that the harpoon will 
bend where the head is jointed, and that the point 
of the tusk will slip away from the socket in the 
barb ; he knows that the line will unloop itself from 
the knob on the shaft, and that the shaft and jointed 
head will float in a piece upon the water ; he knows 
that the seal has dived with the barb firmly bedded 


in its flesh, but he knows, too, that the line will 
follow, dragging the bobbing float to act as a mark ; 
and when he has picked up his spear he paddles 
towards the float and waits for the seal to come up 
again. There is no great risk of the barb slipping — 
why, strong fellows like Julius and Faulus can throw 
the harpoon with such terrific force that the barb 
sometimes goes clean throu^ the seaL The rest is 
easy; the seal comes to the surface, dead, maybe, 
or dazed and faint, and an easy target for the killing 
dart Then the hunter's pulses throb. ''Puijesimavok" 
(he has caught a seal), and he seizes it with a long hook 
with notches in its handle, and lifts it by resting the 
notches one after the other on the edge of his firail 
kajak until he can slide the slippery carcase on to 
the skin deck in front of him. Then he arranges the 
harpoon and float in their places, and paddles home- 

The harpoon that big Julius gave me hangs upon 
my wall, but the float is somewhere on the broad 
Atlantic — ^probably some prowling shark has made a 
breakfast of it. I tried to bring it home. First 
I put it under the cabin table. << Don't risk it 
in the hold," said the second mate, ''the rats will 
have it." 

Under the table it stayed for a day or two, but 

it was too much for us. Every time we sat down 

to meals we kicked the awful thing ; its subtle odour 

flavoured our food. Somebody would send it flying 

across the cabin floor, and there it would lie until 

one of us tripped over it in the dark ; it was an 

odoriferous nuisance. Last of all I hung it up ; but 

as we stumbled across the unsteady floor as the ship 

rolled along, we used to meet that unsavoury shape 



with our faces. The very look of the bloated thing 
took our appetites away. The voting was unanimous 
and pressing. ** Overboard with it," so I regretfully 
cast it to the sharks, and watched it dance upon the 
waves, as it had often danced for big Julius when he 
had a seal. 

But I must get back to Jerry's boat. Our 
particular seal hunt on that November morning was 
partly an accidental one. I was sitting in the stem 
of the boat, watching the rocks and the water. It 
was a new thing to me, this scum of ice that the 
waves were flinging up ; and the spray from the oars 
was freezing as the wind whipp^ it over the side of 
the boat. 

I could see the kajaks frurther out, paddling about 
in an aimless sort of way ; but I was mostly watching 
the line of glistening boulders at the foot of the rocks, 
with the oily-looking sea swilling over them, and 
the simshine gleaming on the crust of ice which 
the waves were leaving on them. The man with the 
scuUing-pole, who was standing beside me in the 
stem, suddenly whispered " Puije " (a seal) and his 
face grew tense and eager. The oarsmen stopped 
and turned to look, while Jerry, the owner of the 
boat, hurriedly crammed a cartridge into his rifle. 

This was all very mysterious to me. I was looking 
all round for a head above the water, or for any 
bubbles or disturbance that might mean a seal ; but 
everything seemed as usual ; the dots of kajaks went 
paddling on, and the sea swilled over the stones. 

Jerry seemed to aim at the line of boulders below 

the rocks, and my eyes followed the line of his barrel ; 

but I saw nothing until the bang started a splodge of 

red on one of the stones. The red seemed to slide into 

809 o 


the water, and the boat was off with a jerk. The 
oarsmen puUed with all their might ; the man at the 
stem was rolling the boat from side to side with the 
force of his sculling ; and Jerry was eagerly looking 
out and shouting terse directions. There seemed to 
be nothing but the red patch near the rocks, where 
the water was all stained with blood; but as the 
steersman brought the boat sweeping round the 
others pulled in their oars and leaned over the dde, 
and in less tune than it takes to teU I was helping 
them to heave a big seal into the boat. It came 
slithering over and flopped down, and lay there, limp 
and lifeless, with whiskers quivering and big eyes 
seeming to gaze right into mine. It looked just like 
one of the rocks close by ; its silvery coat, flecked 
with black and shining with wet, was a perfect imita^- 
tion of the black boulders with their coating of ioe 
and the water swilling over them. No wonder my 
eyes could not see it when the steersman did ; but 
Eskimo eyes are different. 

For the moment things seemed strangely quiet : 
there was something so human in the look of those 
big placid brown eyes that I felt almost miserable to 
see the innocent thing lying dead. But I came back 
from my dreams with a start. My boatmen seemed 
to go back of a sudden to their ancestry of hundreds 
of years ago ; for one minute the old original Eskimo 
in them welled up and drowned all that I knew of 
them. They slit the seal's throat and sucked its 
warm blood. 

Our organist, who can render ckssical tunes fix)m 

the oratories for voluntaries in church, and who can 

play any instrument in the band that he chooses ; the 

schoolmaster, who can preach a sermon, and teach 


I I 




J. it 



the youngsters their ABC, and their smattering of 
geography and arithmetic; the man who sings the 
tenor solos in the choir — ^they were, after all, just 
Eskimos, with all the instincts of the Eskimo still 
strong within them, not a whit spoUt for the rough 
life that is their inheritance. They bent m a group 
over that quivering seal, and quaffed the warm blood 
that welled out of it. That heartened them I That 
made them mighty hunters ! That kept the cold out 
— and, after all, it was a custom of the people. 

They picked up their oars and rowed on, and I 
was thankful for what I had seen. The Eskimos are 
Eskimos yet. 

The casual visitor in the summer time sees them 
salting fish for market, and drinking tea and eating 
biscuits ; he finds them wearing European clothes, 
and great clod-hopping hob-nailed boots, that they 
have bought from schooner folk in exchange for skin 
clothes and home-made sealskin boots: he might 
think that the Eskimos of the picture-books were 
gone, and that only among the icy solitudes of the 
Polar regions, and in the unknown creeks of Baffin's 
Land, were there people true to the type. But no, 
even in Labrador, where European missionaries have 
been working for a hundred and forty years, and 
where everybody is taught to read and write, where 
Christianity has taken the place of the imcanny incan- 
tations of the witch-finders and the weird chantings of 
the priests of Tomgak, the Eskimos are Eskimo to 
the core. In the church, on the ship, in the presence 
of visitors, their native ways arefnot much in evidence ; 
they are still shy of strangers, and fear to be laughed 
at ; but with those who live among them, those who, 

like myself, travel with them and eat with them and 



speak their language, they are the kind-hearted, open- 
handed, raw-meat-eating Eskimos. An Eskimo is no 
less a Christian because he sucks blood from a freshly 
killed seal : he can thank God for his food just as 
well as we can for ours. 

I never thought that I should sleep in a green- 
house on the freezing coast of Labrador, but that is 
how I spent that night. The missionaries at Okak 
had given up their greenhouse after futile efforts to 
grow early v^fetables, and had sold it for a mere 
song to one of the seal hunters. He took it away in 
sections, and put it together at the sealing place, and 
was very cproud of it altogether. By daylight it 
reminded me rather of a photographic studio, and 
the properties — rough bedsteads, a battered stove, a 
couple of decrepit chairs, and a whole host of nets 
and dogs' harness and spears and hatchets and rusty 
guns — ^would have given me some unique pictures if 
I had had the chance to stay awhile. But time was 
precious : I only wanted to see the hauling of the net, 
and then I must go home again. 

We were out soon after daybreak, and it was 

The winter that came afterwards was far less 
biting; for the autumn wind, blowing over the 
freezing sea, nipped and chilled me as nothing that I 
have ever known. It was interesting enough to see 
the Eskimos trotting down to the rocks where the 
shore-rope lay, and where the float that marked the 
far end of the net danced on the black water. I was 
half frozen, stamping about to get warm ; and they — 
they cheerfully pulled the wet ropes up, chewing at 
their pipes and chatting merrily, and every now and 
again stopping to wring the water out of their sodden 


gloves. The cold did not seem to bite them: 
** Un6t " (what does it matter), they said, " it is our 
life : we are made for it " ; and they pulled their 
stiffening gloves on again to keep the rope from 
chafing their hands* They got the heavy seals out 
all stiff and dead, and piled them in a sort of stock- 
ade to freeze, ready to be fetched home during the 
winter. One was partly eaten by sharks. ^^ Sharks 
no good at all," they said ; ** eat the seals and break 
the nets. Sometimes we catch him, but he is no 
good except for dogs' food, and his skin makes fine 
sandpaper for smoothing the sledge runners." 

It was only the middle of November, but Okak 
Bay was already beginning to freeze at the' edges. 
The boatmen had to smash the new ice with their 
oars, and as we got nearer the jetty our boat stuck, 
and one of the men climbed over the side and clung 
there, stamping a passage with his heels. 

Jerry and his men only stayed long enough to 
buy a few necessaries at the store; and I watched 
them shove their boat through the passage we had 
just made, which was already half frozen, and hoist 
their saiL With a wave of the hand and a shout of 
"Aksunai," they set their course for the mouth of 
the bay, and I walked up the jetty to the village. 

For a fortnight the hunters were busy with their 

nets and their kajaks ; and then the sea was frozen, 

and the seal hunt was over for the season. The seals 

were away to their winter haunts at the edge of the 

ocean ice; winter had begun — and the nets were 

fcozen in. It happens the same way every year : the 

people want to make the most of their opportunity, 

and they cannot tell exactly when the sea will freeze, 

so they leave the nets in the water a day too long 



rather than have them up a daj too soon ; and every 
year they have the awkward job of hacking them 
out. They waste no time, for every minute the ice 
is getting thicker. As soon as morning comes^and 
they see the '< sikko " (ice) that covers their bay» they 
trot along with axes to tackle one of the coldest bits 
of work that it is possible to imagine. 

They only need to free the ropes where th^ dip 
below the surface, for the net is at the sea bottom, 
and once freed with the axes there is nothing to do 
but haul. But the hauling 1 In my eagerness to 
have every possible experience I lent a hand at the 
rope, but my fingers stiffened round it, and I suffered 
all the agony of gripping a red-hot poker. My poor 
hands ached for hours. And the Eskimos tugged at 
the rope, and gathered up the meshes all stiffening 
in the wind and dripping with icicles, and piled the 
net on the rocks above high-water mark, and rubbed 
their hands indifferently, and ambled off to get their 
sledges ready. ''Home for Christmas" was the 
word; and in a few days the sledges came racing 
round the bend into Okak Bay, bringing the families 
back to their winter homes at the Mission village. 



At the Edge of the Ice — A Tragedy — ^Landing a Walrus 

— ^Martin's First Seal 

THOUGH times hare changed since the old 
days, and a man can sell his fish and blubber 
and fiirs at the store and buy flour and ship's biscuits 
and other plain things, the nature of the Eskimos has 
not chang^. They still like to depend on the hunt 
for their daily food ; they still go out hungry in the 
morning, and gorge themselves on the raw flesh of 
the seals they bring home. This is their custom, 
part of their nature, bom in them ; they are a nation 
of hunters, and whatever changes in morals and 
housing and education passing years have seen among 
them, in tiiis one thing they do not change. And 
well it is that the Mission has been able to keep them 
true to their traditions in this matter, for to my mind 
there is no doubt at all that the life of a hunter is the 
ideal life for an Eskimo. It is the life for which he 
is especially gifted ; the raw meat that he eats keeps 
him fit and well, and the exposure hardens him to 
bear the climate of his firozen land. And I do not 
base my belief on conjecture only ; I base it upon 
what I have seen. At Okak, and in the north gener- 
ally, the people are broad and plump, with^flat faces 
and sunken noses; but further south I have seen 
lean, sharp-fiiced Eskimos, with bony limbs and 
pointed noses. They are pure-blooded Eskimos, all 

of them ; they may be lean and bony without any 



admixture of other blood; and the cause of the 
change lies in the altered food and habits of the people 

At the southern stations they are more in contact 
with the outside world, and, especially, there are 
English-speaking settlers living among them, cod- 
fishing and fur-trapping. The Eskimos are bom 
imitators; they do what they see others do; and 
when they have settler folks living among them in 
little wooden shacks like their own, and passing in 
and out among them, it is small wonder that they 
fSedl into the settler habits of food and clothing. 

They take to garments of cloth instead of the 
sealskin that Nature has given them ; and they eat 
less of their raw meat and blubber and more of 
the bread and tea and cooked meats of the settlers. 
And Nature rebels. The southern Eskimos are, 
as a consequence, less hardy than their northern 
brethren; they cannot bear cold so well, but need 
more fire, more clothing, and more warm food; 
and their children are more puny. This is an un- 
fortunate thing, but I must record it for complete- 
ness' sake, because it is one of the dangers that 
threatens the Eskimo people as civilisation overtakes 
them. If they give up their native foods they wiU 
dwindle and die out. This is my firm belief, and 
so I record with all the more satisfaction how I 
found my neighbours at Okak to be real Eskimo 

During the long winter that followed the home- 
coming of the families to their wooden homes in 
the village the men were seldom idle. In my 
visits to the houses I always found the women in 

charge* and my question ** Aipait nannek& ? " (where 



is your husband ?) nearly always brought the answer 
^* Sin&mut aigivok " (he is off to the edge of the ice 
again). That is the hunting-place that the Eskimos 
love, the edge of the ocean ice, where the seals 
sport in the chilly water or clamber on the ice 
t;o rest Sometimes, when sudden sickness has 
caUed me into the village in the small hours of 
the morning, I have heard the scufflings and yelp- 
ings of dogs, and have seen dim and shadowy men, 
dressed in sealskin clothes, trotting down the track 
among the hununocks towards the sea ice, off* to the 
*« sina." 

When I talked about the sinft to big Gustaf 
he simply said ** We go, eh ? Start at four : I will 
wake you up," taking it for granted that if I 
went at all I would do it in proper Eskimo style. 
As this was more or less of a pleasure trip I made 
a sort of compromise with good Gustaf s ideas on 
the subject, and the clock was well on towards five 
before I met him on the doorstep. 

I was fortified with a good breakfast of bacon 
and eggs— eggs kept in waterglass since the ship 
brought them last summer — but Gustaf would have 
none. " No," he said, " I shall eat by-and-by " ; 
and from what I had seen of Eskimo mealtimes I 
imagined him disposing of several pounds of seal- 
meat and a pint or two of weak tea when the day's 
work was done. 

Nevertheless I saw that he was chewing, pensively 
chewing with a steady champ, champ, champ, as he 
disentangled the dogs from one another. 
" What are you chewing ? " said I. 
'' Eoak " (frozen), answered Gustaf ; and he went 

on to tell me that he had got a mouthfid of fixxsen 



raw sealmeat; that was plenty; it was the custom 
of the people. ** AnanAk " (splendid) ; he said^ ^^ it 
makes me warm ; it gives me sinews ; piovok-illa ** 
(good indeed). I envied him his warmth, for on a 
raw bleak morning like that the effects of bac<Mi 
and hot cc^ee are soon gone, and I was forced to 
try to trot in the darkness to keep my circula- 
tion up. 

It was the middle of the morning before we 
got among the lumps and hummocks and hollo¥rs of 
the sinft ; and there were signs of other hunters on 
the field before us. We passed a little snow hut, 
with sledge tracks beside it, and Gustaf said, 
<^ Johannes probably. He came here yesterday: 
Slept all night, hunt all day.'' 

We were a pleasure party, but Gustaf had 
brought his gun, and was crouching with eager face 
among the hummocks. Presently there was a bang, 
and he was all excitement. ''Pivunga" (I hit it), 
he said. ** Takka, takka (there, there) : where can I 

There was no kajak to be had, and I thought he 

was going to lose his seal; but no, he was not to 

be beaten ; he climbed on to a floating piece of ice, 

and paddled off to fetch his prize. There he 

croudied on his precarious perch, with I don't care 

to think how many fathoms of freezing water under 

him; and presently I saw him rafting back, with 

the dead seal trailing after. I tihink he seemed to 

like the spice of danger — or perhaps he did not know 

what danger meant. Yet danger there is, as we 

were reminded not many days later, when a sledge 

drove into Okak Bay with an Eskimo boy sitting 

upon it. He sat strangely stilly and that was enough 



to make us think that something was wrong, for an 
Sskimo driver is nearly always trotting beside his 
sledge. The dogs turned hungrily towards their 
accustomed door, but the boy took no notice of 
them, but left them in their harness and ran towards 
the Mission house. I watched him pass, ashen faced, 
panting, stumbling; and a little lata I heard his 
story. At first incoherently, then with graphic 
gestures and loud lamentations he told his tale ; and 
here it is. 

His name was Rena, and he had started at day- 
break for the edge of the ice. His brother, Jakko, 
was with him, and they were after seals. They had 
a harpoon and a gun, and they talked as they went 
of the splendid hunt they would have on so fine a 
day. Tautuk 1 such clear, calm water and so many 
seals swimming about ; it was a real day for the sind, 
and before they had been there many minutes Jakko 
had shot a seal It was wounded and floated on the 
water, lashing with its flappers but too weak to dive. 
Oh for a boat or a kajak ; but they had, none, and 
reach that seal they must. They did what Eskimos 
always have done in like circumstances and always 
will do ; they clambered on a piece of loose ice and 
paddled with their hands towards the seal 

They got on fairly well until they were twenty 
or thirty yards from tiie edge of the icefield and the 
seal was near enough to be speared. Jakko stood up 
and poised his harpoon, ready to strike, while Rena 
paddled gently with his hands to steady the ice-raft. 
The change of position must have upset the balance 
of the ice, for no sooner did Jakko stand up than it 
began to heel slowly over. For a moment ijiey were 

too intent on the seal to notice their peril, but as the 



movement increased it dawned upon them that they 
were turning over. 

And then the slow-witted Jakko had one of 
those flashes of inspiration that come at such times ; 
with a quick cry of *^ Stay where you are, Rena»" he 
jumped into the water. Exactly what was in his 
mind we never knew. One thing is certain — ^he saw 
the danger. If both stayed upon the ice it w^ould 
upset and both would be in the water; he could 
swim a little, but Rena could not do a stroke. Did 
he think to reach the safety of the icefield by sivim- 
ming, or did he say, *^ Better one to be drowned than 
both " ? Whatever the explanation, all that Rena 
could say was that he felt the ice-pan rolling over ; 
he heard the shout of ** Stay where you are," and saw 
his brother leap into the waves. And that was alL 
The raft righted itself with a lurch that nearly flung 
him off; but he managed to hold on and paddled 
frantically to and fro in a vain search for his brother. 
Poor Rena paddled and paddled and paddled until 
his brain reeled and his hands were stiff, but never 
a sign did he see of Jakko. Folks do not get drowned 
in water like that ; it was the Atlantic, two or three 
degrees below freezing point, cold enough to numb 
the brain and paralyse the heart of the strongest; 
and so poor Jakko met his death. Like a flash he 
had sunk in the dark water, dazed and hdpless. 
Hours after the catastrophe Rena scrambled from 
his frail island on to the safe icefield and flung 
himself on to the sledge and let the dogs take him 

This is the true story of two boys that I knew, 

Jakko and Rena Mellik, one of whom threw his life 

away to save the other. It gives the Eskimo a lift 



^towards the heroic in one's imagination ; they are a 
xiation of stolid, unemotional hunters, used to facing 
<leath in icefields and canoes and awfiil storms on 
ixiountain passes, quiet and unconcerned in times of 
danger, but capable at a crisis of showing that greater 
love that prompts a man to lay down his life for his 

There was gloom for a few days after the tragedy 
of Jakko ; but the Eskimos soon forget ; bereavement 
does not wound them very deeply, and soon the 
village wore its usual air of subdued bustle, and away 
at the sinft the hunters were after the seals. 

But seals are not the only quarry; by far the 
best fortune that a man can have at the sin& is to 
catch sight of a walrus resting on the ice. The great 
idea is to rush boldly upon the ponderous beast and 
spear or shoot it while it is too dazed to move. It 
has no chance; it is unwieldy and slow and has 
hardly^made up its mind which way to turn before 
the hunter is on it and its life is over. ''Ahaila," 
said Gustaf with a grin when I asked him about it, 
^'Eskimo make a noise and run fast and Aivek 
(walrus) stay there all the time and get killed plenty 
sooa Go quiet, creep, creep, creep, and old Aivek 
smell Eskimo and crawl off to the water. Flop, 
gone, no catch him now; plenty frightened, no 
good" I knew very weU while Gustaf was telling 
me all this in his queer, broken English, with 
wavings of his hands and expressive grins and 
shrugs, that he would be quite ready to embark in 
his kajak and hunt the walrus in its native element. 
A wakus is, no doubt, a formidable beast; its 
ferocious eyes and bristling whiskers and great gleam- 
tusks make a terrible picture ; and the very weight 



of its tremendous rush would be enough to fri^ten 
most folkS) quite apart from the uncanny agility 
the huge animal displays. But the Eskimo in his 
kajak is a match for the walrus ; he is every whit as 
active, and twice as sharp-witted; and if the men 
at the W1& see a walrus disporting himself in the 
water they are after him like a shot; and though 
they do not often have the chance that my Killinek 
guide had, of paddling into the middle of a school of 
walruses and calmly harpooning the old bull because 
he had the best tusks, they seldom let the odd 
ones and twos escape if they get within strikiz^ 

Landing a walrus is no joke. I say '* landing'^ 
because it is the only word to convey the idea of 
hauling the great carcase out of the water on to the 
ice, and the ice is every bit as good as land to the 
Eskimos. What a walrus weighs I do not know, 
but it stands to reason that a creature fourteen feet 
long and fourteen feet round the middle is an 
enormous lump to lift- 
No Eskimo would dream of trying to pack 
a whole walrus on his sledge; for one things it 
would roll off at the first lurch, and, for another 
thing, I hardly think that any sledge could stand the 
strain. Gustaf grinned and shook his head at this 
idea of mine. ** My sledge stand anything," he said ; 
** got no nails in it, only fine seal-hide thongs ; very 
strong ; " and though Gustaf may have overrated his 
sledge, I have seen him drive his twenty dogs up to 
the Mission house with a load of drinking water, two 
great puncheons of it, full half a ton in weight, and 
that should be a fair test of workmanship. But 
another reason for cutting up a walrus at the sin& is 





than an old Eskimo custom steps in and says it must 
be so. 

Every one who sees the capture must have a 

The lucky hunter skins his huge catch, and chops 
it into chunks, and hands the pieces round. Even 
the interested visitor there on a pleasure trip gets a 
great piece thrust upon him. 

As for myself, I drew the line at walrus. The 
flesh is rank and coarse, and even the liver is tough ; 
and though I have tried to eat the boiled skin which 
the Eskimos find so tasty, I preferred to leave it to 
them — it seemed more natural to let them eat what 
they could, and make the rest mto whips and sledge 
drags, than to loosen my teeth over its exceeding 

Shortly after my visit to the sin& I saw a boy 
walking along the village path, canning what looked 
like a big and slimy slug. 

Whatever horrible thing had the lad got? He 
carried it by the middle, and it dangled quivering on 
each side of his hand. He had an air of importance 
with him, and every one he met stopped to say a 
word and to have a look at his loathsome handfuL 

Behind him marched his father and mother, both 
looking very proud. 

'^Hai, Martin/* I shouted, <^what have you 

''Eissek'* (sealskin), he said, and came trotting 

along to unroll his package on the snow, and display 

a fresh sealskin well scraped and washed and sodden 

with brine. ** My first seal," he said, grinning shyly. 

Ikpeksak anguvara'' (I caught it yesterday). 

He seemed in a hurry to be ofiT, so I let him go 



without further question, and watched the little 
procession make its way to the Mission house. 
During the evening I saw his father again^ and 
broached the subject of Martin's sealskin. 

Lukas's eyes brightened. '^Illa, ilia," he said, 
'^ Martin angusimavok " (Martin has quite caught a 
seal) — ^as much as to say, '^My son is a grown-up 
hunter now : he is a man." 

^'And what was he doing with the sealskin?" 
said I. 

** Issumaminik " (his own idea), answored Lukas ; 
and he wandered off into a long story of the catching 
of the seal. ** I took him to the sin& yesterday, to 
look after my dogs; but there came a seal very 
close, and I lent Martin my gun, and he shot it. 

** Kuvianarmdk (what rejoicing there was) — ^there 
were many people there, and Martin cried < Anguvara, 
anguvara,' and they all came running to see. He 
knows how to skin a seal and cut it up, because he 
has often seen his mother do it. Ilia, he is a man 
now, emera-una (that son of mine). We all drank 
its blood, and Martin drank too — ^his first seal — ^and 
he cut the skin and blubber off, for they are his own. 
He caught the seal himself, with his own hand. 
Nakom^k (how thankful). And he cut the seal in 
pieces, and gave everybody a piece, for that is a 
custom of the people when a boy kills his first seaL 
He saved the liver for his father and mother, as 
is right to do ; and he put a big special lump of the 
best meat on the sledge because his mother told him 
to do so, and we brought it home. 

**What shall we do with it? Ilia"— with a 
twinkle — "that is for old Henrietta. She was the 
helper when he was bom ; she it was who saw him 


safely into the world, and dressed him in his first 
clothes. Surely she shall have a share of Martin's 
first seal — and, besides, it is a custom of the people. 
The blubber he will sell at the store to-morrow, and 
that will be the first money he has earned at the seal 
himt : ilia, he is very proud and thankful. Now he 
shall go with me to the sinft every day, except when 
he must stay at home and chop firewood for his 
mother, for he is a good boy, emera-una; and he 
will catch seals often, and learn to be as fine a hunter 
as his father— better, perhaps, for my eyes are not as 
good as they were. And soon, when I am an itok 
(old man) and his mother is a ningiok (old woman) 
he will go alone to the hunt and bring seals every 
day, and I shall stop at home and chop the firewood ; 
and he will have a wife to help the ningiok scrape 
the skins, and the kittomgakulluit (little children) 
will play about the floor. But I still have nukke 
(sinews): I wiU go to the sinft to-morrow, and he 
will chop wood. And the skin? The skin of 
Martin's first seal ? lUa, issumaminik, it was quite 
his own idea. We had been reading how the people 
of Israel used to give the first-fruits to God, and 
Martin thought he would like to do that with the 
first seal he had ever caught ; so he took the skin to 
the missionary, and that is how you saw him 



Fur-trapping — A New Year's Godsend — ^Thb Reindeer Hunt 

NO sooner is one hunting season over than 
another begins ; or, to be more exact, there 
is always hunting to be done of one sort or another, 
and sometimes two sorts at a time. 

I thought that perhaps the men would be rather 
idle after the sledges came home for Christmas, wait- 
ing for the sea-ice to harden right out to the edge ; 
but there is very little idleness in an Eskimo hunter's 
life. Sometimes I have gone into one of the huts 
in tiie dajrtime, and while the hunter was taking 
his well-earned rest between his morning tramp to 
the traps and his strenuous afterboon of wood- 
chopping, I have stepped across his sleeping figure 
to watch his wife stretching a fox-skin upon a 
wooden shape, and have seen the pot of fox-flesh 
stewing over the stove, ready for a feast when 
father should wake up; and the mother has put 
down her scraper and wiped her hands and turned 
the skin with careful fingers, to show me the 
lovely fur of a white or red or even a silver fox, 
and then has gently turned it back and taken up 
her scraper to plod slowly and cautiously on at 
the work she has to do to get the skin ready for 
market, her eyes gleaming as she thought of the 
dollars and dollars that that skin meant, and of 
all the food and clothing and even luxuries that 
those dollars would buy — a new roof for the house, 



maybe, for it was sadly leaky in the springtime, 
or a new gun for the hunter, and clothes for every 
one of them, not to speak of a barrel of flour and 
a bag of ship's biscuit and a hanging lamp to bum 
paraffin oil I 

The hunter is as careful as his wife over those 
valuable furs — and woe betide her if he catches her 
making a tear or a cut in the course of her scraping f 
There must be no spot, no blemish, no mark upon 
the skin ; and when he finds a fox in his trap, if it 
is not already dead from the cold he dare not risk 
spoiling the fur by shooting it, but kneels upon its 
diest and so puts an end to its life. 

The Mission pays very generous prices for furs, 

and one can easily understand that the result of a 

night's trapping may make a poor man rich at a 

single boimd. It happened that way in the case of 

a poor fellow called Mdl6, who lived in a hut on the 

hill behind us. All the autumn he lay ill ; and the 

seal hunt went by and left him destitute. He could 

not even hire his net out as some men do, because 

he was too poor to own one: he was one of the 

kajak men, and was wont to depend altogether upon 

his skill with the harpoon. So the boisterous 

autumn passed, and never a chance did he get to 

go a-hunting: the ice came, and he was penniless. 

He was not starving, for the Eskimos are always 

neighbourly enough to find food for one another, 

and he had help from the Mission and the hospital ; 

but his position was a serious one, for he had a 

large family to keep, and he had the winter to face 

without seals. That would mean giving up his few 

dogs, for dogs are hungry brutes, and without dogs 

he could neither go to the ice-edge nor fetch fire- 



wood; it would mean no boots and clothing, no 
frozen meat, no blubber, no lamp oil; it would, in 
a word, mean absolute destitution of just those 
things that an Eskimo needs the most 

I remember the first day that he left his bed, 
for I went into the hut and found him sitting on a 
box, propped against the wall ; his wife was quietly 
crying over a pair of boots that the missionary had 
given her to make, and the children were sitting 
as quiet as mice upon the floor. Mdl6 was the 
most cheerful of all. '* lUa," he said ; '* Gk)d has given 
me back my health, and for that I am thankfuL" 

" And what will you do now, M616 ? " 

''Atsuk; I shall trust my Father — I can do 
nothing else." 

I thought that his simple expression of faitii 
was admirable, and it was with a queer lump in my 
throat that I turned and left the poor contented 
fellow. I could not help thinking that few folks, 
however well-to-do, are blessed with so much peace 
of mind. 

The hand of God, I think, is strangely near to 
these simple nature peoples — ^for so it seemed in 
Mdld's case. On New Yeafs Eve he took his first 
walk out of doors, and, being a practical-minded 
man, he thought to turn his walk to good account 
by shouldering his fox-trap. He slowly made his 
way to the nearest trapping-place, a piece of broken 
ground dotted with stunted trees, and hidden behind 
the hills, and there he set and baited his trap. He 
walked home again, and peacefully went to sleep 
on his hard bed of boards and reindeer skins. 

On the next afternoon I went into Mdld's hut 
to see how he was getting on, and was surprised to 


find several of our great hunters gathered there 

discussmg something. M^l^ himself was sitting on 

his box, with snow on his boots and his face red 

with the cold ; he was evidently not long home from 

another expedition. He was crying silently. ** What 

is the matter ? '* said I. " Tagga " (look there), said 

Gustaf, our greatest fur-trapper ; ** tagga," and pointed 

to the table. The group drew away and let me pass, 

and I saw at once the cause of the excitement ; on 

the rough boards there lay a beautiful black fox. 

••Igvit (yours), M616?" I asked him. "Ahaila," 

he sobbed. ** I went to-day to my fox-trap, my 

poor little only fox-trap that I set yesterday and 

baited with a piece of the seal meat that Daniel 

sent us for dinner, and that was too much for us 

to finish ; and there were many other men there 

setting their fox-traps *' — " Ilia, ilia, we were there," 

said some of the men grouped in the hut — ** and 

I set my little fox-trap by itself, and their fox-traps 

were all about, here and there among the trees. 

And to-day I went again to look at my trap, and 

behold, I have a black fox. TattamnarmSk (it is 

wonderAil) : some of the other men had foxes, red 

foxes and white, but my trap only has a black one. 

Surely God put it there because I am the poorest 

man and need it the most. NakomSk." And it 

was New Year's Day I 

Could I wonder at the man's emotion? Could 

I help sharing the excitement of the other trappers 

at this stroke of what we in our enlightenment call 

** luck " ? M616 and his family were supplied with 

enough and to spare ; they could buy seal meat and 

dog's food and blubber and clothes, enough to last 

them the winter through. And I wish the story 



could end there : but in {Sidmess to my picture of the 
Eskimos it must not. 

M616 was just like all the rest of them, improvi- 
doit, open-handed, goierous to a fiuilt: and so» in 
his rejoicing, he called his friends and neighbours 
together, and feasted them and fed them, and cele- 
brated the wcmderful day, and of course befc^e the 
winter was over M^6 was a poor man again, 
hvinir from hand to mouth and just Aiming eiiou£^ 
to tLp his &may gobg-but i thiTS helilS! 
never forget how plenty came into his house and 
built up his health and spirits on that New Year's 
Day. It is a true story ; and somewhere, I suppose, 
thete is a wealthy lady wearing a lovely black fox 
fur, little thinking that it is Mdld's New Year's 

It sometimes happens that the Eskimo catches a 
Tartar in his fox-trap, if the smell of the putrid bait 
of rank and rotten seal meat chances to attract a 
wandering wolverine. The powerful brute, finding 
itself fast, marehes off with the trap, snarling and 
grumbling at the pain ; and before the hunter can 
add it to his bag he has a weaiy trail through the 
woods, up and down, to and fro, following the blood- 
stained line of the trailing trap, and at the end of it 
all he has to face a sharp encounter with one of the 
most dangerous things a man can meet, a mad and 
furious wolverine. He is probably thankful to shoot 
the beast before it does him an injury — if he has a 
gun with him. 

As a matter of fact, the men seldom go to their 

traps without their guns. It is not that they have 

danger or big game in their minds, but because there 

is always a chance of meeting a partridge (rock 


ue calleclinE, u IbCTaEwayi do, lo ini^l induipui icnuuki. Thaman on the JeA iijiutbomc 

koawlcdgi of ihe hsunii of Ihc rockcod, ud walk piiltj lo their favouHie placet. 


ptarmigan) on the road, and a partridge, eaten raw 
and warm, is a real delicacy to Eskimo ways of 

There is bigger game for those who seek it; I 
have heard the scufflings of a wolf among the dogs 
when we camped in a snow hut on the momitain 
pass, and I have known the drivers stop the sledge 
among the stunted trees on some desolate neck of 
land between the fiords, and have watched them 
peering at the spoor of a bear in the snow. '* Tumin- 
git " (his footprints), they say. " Old, no good.*' 

It is remarkable how long one may live in 
Labrador without seeing any of these fur animals in 
the wild state ; as for mjrself , the nearest I ever got 
to a bear was when Paulus came to me and said ** Me 
kill a bear — ^you want some, eh?'' and so for next 
day's dinner we had a roast haunch of black bear on 
the table, and found it excellent. There are black 
bears in plenty for those who have the time or the 
opportunity to go after them; as late as 1907» a 
party of officers from a visiting ship went up Nain Bay 
in a launch, and shot three fine bears in one afternoon. 

The Eskimos themselves are always on the tracks 
of one sort of animal or another; hunting is their 
very life, and as the days of winter went by, and the 
excitement of sealing at the sinft and trapping in the 
woods began to wane, I was not surprised that there 
was something else to occupy their thoughts. 
** Tuktu " began to be the burden of their talk from 
morning till night. 

The men stood chattering in groups ; the women 

indoors were sewing and mending from dawn to 

sunset and sometimes far into the night; ''Tuktu, 

tuktu, tuktu," was in everybody's mouth — ^the rein* 



deer hunt was coming. Presently the word went 

round that the Nautsertortut (scouts) were out, and 

the excitement became intense. This was early in 

March, and all day long the people were going in 

twos and threes to the top of the nearest hill, to 

watch the sledge traek for the home-coming of the 

scouts. Custom has fixed Easter Tuesday as the 

day for the beginning of the hunt, and although the 

custom is a comparatively new one, introduced to 

give the huntars the opportunity of attending the 

special services in the church during the Passicm 

Week, it is very loyally observed : no Eskimo would 

dream of cutting the services to go a-hunting, but so 

eager are they to have ever3rthing ready, and so fiill 

are they of the all-important subject of the reindeer, 

that before Easter comes several of the men will 

certainly go to spy out the land and to bring back 

reports of the probable whereabouts of the deer. 

This is especially the case when Easter falls late; 

and when I missed this or that familiar face about 

the village and asked " Jonase nannek& ? " I was able 

to anticipate the answer, '* Nautsertorpok " (he has 

gone to scout). The scouts seldom bring home any 

venison ; they have done their part if they bring 

home a report, such as ** I saw no reindeer yet," or 

*' I have seen tracks, kannitom§kdrput " (they seem to 

be near) ; or, best of all, '^ I saw three deer in the 

distance, sivorli6jut (the leaders) probably." Then 

the excitement bubbles over into energy. Men 

stand grouped round sledges on the snow, planing 

and smoothing and polishing the runners, binding up 

slack joints and patching weak places with iron 

plates ; harpoons are shoved among the rafters of the 

roof, and kajaks are hoisted on poles, out of reach of 



the prowling dogs; women are stitching as if for 
dear life, getting the boots and clothing ready for 
the great occasion; there is stir and bustle all day 

To my mind the most interesting of all these 
preparations is the mending of the guns. I had seen 
them at this odd occupation many times before I 
discovered what they were about 

A man wanders out of his hut with a gun upon 

his shoulder and a cluster of friends at his heels. He 

sits down upon a lump of ice, and some lad or other 

hurries off to set a mark on one of the hummocks, 

fifty or sixty yards away. Then the firing begins, 

and after each shot there is a hubbub of voices, and 

the gun is passed ftom hand to hand. Perhaps some 

famous hunter tries a shot, and delivers a slow and 

weighty opinion, whereupon the voices start jabbering 

again. When he thinks the trial has been sufficient 

to assure him of the weaknesses of his weapon, the 

owner of the gun hammers the barrel with a stone 

and tries another shot. It is not likely that one 

hammering wiU satisfy him; perhaps he has 

** straightened " it a little too much, and must give 

it a few thumps on the other side : he smacks away 

at it with his stone, and cocks his eye along it and 

hammers again, and tries another shot; and so the 

performance goes on, to the accompaniment of serious 

and critical remarks, until the gun is '^ mended." It 

matters not the least what sort of a gun it be ; a new 

and costly rifle gets just the same treatment as the 

veriest old blunderbuss with its stock bound round 

with twine: whatever the gun, the barrel must be 

made to accord with Eskimo ideas of straightness ; 

and the queer thing is that the owner of the gun, 



once it is properly *' mended/' can shoot with tiie 
most deadly aim. It seems to suit him the better for 
the hammering it gets. It is no easy matter to get a 
sight of this curious performance, because as soon as a 
European comes walking along the hammering stops, 
and nothing more than mere gun practice se^ns to 
be going on. The Eskimos are rather shy of their 
characteristic little ways ; and, of course, to European 
eyes the gun was good enou^ to b^^in with, and the 
hammering might easily be a laughing matter. As 
the days passed on|towards Easter, and evoy day I 
saw the same gun-practice, and gun-cleamng, and 
cartridge-filling, I was surprised that there were no 
accidents ; the people seem so careless of their fire- 
arms that any one might well expect to hear of 
several fatalities every year. But as I look back over 
the eight years that J have known the Eskimos, I 
can count the gun accidents on the fingers of one 
hand, and I only know of one that ended fatally. 
The fact is that their cardessness is more seeming 
than real, though they do run the most foolish risks 
at times. 

While an Eskimo is engaged on the cleaning of 
his gun it is quite a likely thing for the wad to stick. 
The man pokes a plug of greasy tow into the 
barrel, and the harder he pokes the tighter it wedges. 
Perhaps he remembers to put the ramrod in at the 
other end of the barrel, and push the wad out the 
way it went in; perhaps he heats it red hot and 
makes it bum its way through ; but as likely as not, 
especially if he is an inexperienced young fellow, he 
loses patience, and loads his gun and tries to fire the 
obstruction out. I knew a man at Hebron who 
this dodge. The wad was too tightly jammed 


s^en to be shifted by a bullet, and the effect of the 
bTremendous force was to raise a big blister on the 
barrel I Happily the steel was too tough to explode, 
or that adventurous young Eskimo would have been 
^wiped out. He came running to the missionary, 
iDTandishing his blistered gun. '* No good/' he said, 
« < can't shoot with this gun any more — ^please cut him 
short.'' So the missionary filed the banrel off behind 
-the blister, and thus the gun became a sort of exag- 
gerated pistol; and the proud and smiling owner 
^was in time for the reindeer hunt, and did welL 

So much for gun accidents ; but I must confess 
that, rare as mishaps are, I used to watch the annual 
gun-tinkering with a good deal of anxiety for the 
safety of my apparently venturesome Eskimo 

All this is a prelude to the reindeer hunt ; and at 
last the great day comes, and with shoutings and 
cracking of whips the sledges are away in the dark 
of the morning, and the hunters have started. I 
have watched them off in the gathering light, stem- 
faced and eager, each man to his own sledge, and 
mostly alone. A boy of thirteen is handy with a 
gun, and useful to take care of the dogs ; but smaller 
folk must stay at home, beseech they never so prettily. 
The reindeer hunt is no time for useless weight upon 
the sledge : I knew a man who took his wife with 
him, but the lady had to walk the seventy or eighty 
miles home, trailing laboriously [beside the sledge, 
because there was such a load of meat and skins 
that the dogs could pull no more ; and up the hills 
she tasted the realities of the reputed third-class 
passage of the old English coaching days — *' Get off 

and shove." 



On Easter Tuesday morning the sledgfes make 
their start, and track westward up the frozen rivers 
and through the ¥anding valleys to the moss-covo:^ 
wilderness where the reindeer find their food. The 
hunters have no luggage on their sledges : no tent, 
no sleeping gear, only a scrap of dried seal meat or 
fish for themselves and the dogs, and a gun, an axe, 
a knife, a packet of sticking plaster for the inevitable 
cuts, and a tin of grease for their sunburnt lips and 
cheeks — that is their whole equipment, with the 
occasional addition of a kettle for the making of a 
cup of Eskimo tea, weak as water, and flavoured 
with a mouthful of molasses out of a bottle. 

They start together, but after a while they get 
separated, and travel in ones and twos, or alone. 
This man's dogs are slow, and lag behind ; the other 
man wants to try such and such a valley instead of 
the beaten trail ; and so they separate. 

When night comes they build snow huts for 
shelter, and sleep on a bed of dogs' harness spread on 
the hard snow floor — ^not for any great comfort there 
is in it, but because if they left it outside the dogs 
would devour it in the night. In the morning each 
man boils his own tea and munches his own solitary 
feed of dried meat or ship's biscuits, harnesses his 
team, and drives on alone. Alone he travels where 
his fancy leads him : he will find the deer. Solitude 
has no terrors for the Eskimo; it wakens his best 
instincts ; it matters not that he meets nobody, sees 
nobody ; alone he finds his way to the hunt and back 
again, trusting to his marvellous memory for land- 
marks, and guided by the stars and the sunrise. ^ ^ 

It was a bleak, raw morning when I first saw the 

reindeer hunters start: they had their skin clothes 



tied round with scarves to keep the wind out, and 
they had their heads down as they faced the bleak 
^usts. Before ten o'clock a hurricane was raging, 
and I feared for the safety of the men. But they 
came back, with the storm roaring behind them; 
first Jerry, then Abia, then others in twos and 
threes, all with the same tale — '^Ajomarpok (it is 
impossible), we must start again to-morrow." *' Are 
you all safe ? " I asked them ; and Jerry counted them 
over on his fingers. "Yes,'* he said, "we are all 
here : all except Johannes." " And Johannes, where 
is he ? " " Atsuk " — the laconic answer, so character- 
istic of the Eskimo — " I don't know." But I was 
anxious. "Undt," they said — as if to say, "Just 
don't you bother your head about Johannes; you 
can't lose him, we all know that He's safe enough." 

Next day was stormy again, and there was no 
Johannes. I thought of search parties, but the 
people only smiled ; and, when the weather cleared, 
off they went again with their dogs and their sledges, 
with never a word about the missing man. For ten 
days nothing happened ; then the women waiting on 
the hill yelled " Kemmutsit, kemmutsit " (a sledge, a 
sledge), and I climbed the hill and saw a dot of a 
sledge and a tiny bliur of dogs with an active little 
ant of a driver slipping slowly down from the woods 
at the mouth of the big river to the wood-cutters' 
track over the ice. 

"Johannes, immakka," they said, and strolled 

down the hill to meet him. And Johannes it was, 

smiling and happy, and brown and well; proudly 

shoving at a sledge piled high with meat and skins, 

and shouting and cooing and chuckling to the toiling 

t S87 


Willing women tore the pile to pieces, and carried 
it into the hut ; an army of smaU boys fought for the 
privilege of unharnessing the dogs — ^no doubt to the 
huge disgust of the poor dogs, that had to wait with 
what patience they could muster until the scuffling 
was finished, thankful at last to slink out of the way 
of the tumbling mob; and Johannes himself seized 
a great pile of antlers that had topped the load, and 
brought them over for me to dioose a pair for mysel£ 
I looked at the happy little man ; and there was a 
picture in my mind dl the time of a solitary little 
fur-clad Eskimo driving a team of ten wolfish and 
hungry dogs into the very teeth of an Arctic storm. 
** Why did you not turn back with the others," I 
asked him. Johannes's eyes twinkled. ^* It is quite 
a long time since I slept in a snow house," he said, 
^' so I built a snow house instead of turning back, 
and sat inside and listened to the storm. It was 
splendid And now I am the first home with meat. 
I will go and fetch you a leg." 

Year by year the same scenes come: the start 

on Easter Tuesday, the daily tramp of the women 

to the top of the look-out hill, the daily chatter 

over the work. Three days have passed. "Ah," 

say the women, "our men have found reindeer; if 

they had not they would have come home before 

this, for gthey have only three days' food. Nakom^k^ 

soon we shall be tasting tuktuvinemik " (reindeer 

flesh). And the men I It is the time of their 

lives I How graphically they tell of the keen moment 

when they first see the deer. Cunning fellows, away 

they circle so as to come upon them from the lee 

side, and if they cannot see the herd, but only find 

tracks, they know how far away they are by the 



£reshness of the spoor. They turn theur sledges 
upside down before they get within range, and 
make the team lie down ; then the] dogs are safe, 
for they cannot drag an upturned sledge. Woe 
betide the luckless hunter who lets his dogs get 
too close : away they go — ^no power can stop them — 
they are as keen as wolves to do a little hunting 
for themselves, and for the nonce they have become 
wolves again. 

One man described to me how he came upon 
the deer suddenly. He* was driving his dogs along 
a winding track, when, on rounding a bend, he 
found himself driving into the midst of a herd. 
^* Kappianarm§k," he said, and waved his; arms to 
picture his excitement. ''No good, dogs no good, 
tuktu too close" — and there he was, wildly trjring 
to make the most of what was a very fleeting 
opportunity in every sense of the term. 

My ndghboiu^ liked to talk about the reindeer 

himt. ** Ah," they said, '' it is fine to see the herd 

upon the hillsides, all grey and white like the snow 

upon the rocks. Yes, there are many tuktu : you 

may watch them all day, marching along the hills, 

more and more and always more, a great, great 

number. Ah, it is fine to watch them — but only 

Eskimo eyes can see them, because our eyes are 

made for hunting. There they graze, digging through 

the snow with their forefeet to get at the moss 

underneath. Often they dig through much snow, 

more than the height of a man; but they always 

find the moss, because they can smell it with their 

feet 1 It is fine to see them — and all the cows have 

their little calves beside them, and the old bull is 

keeping watch. When we shoot the cow, the little 



calf will not go away ; it stays close to its dead 
mother and noses her and cries. We ' shoo ' it away, 
and make it nm after the herd: but sometimes it 
will not go, and we must kill it too. That is no 
good ; it has fine meat, and its skin is soft for clothes 
for the baby, but it b better to let it live and 
grow big for next year.** 

- However much the seals may mean to the 
Eskimos, it always seemed to me that the reindeer 
hunt was the big event of the hunter's year. There 
never was such excitement as when the sledges 
were sighted — such roars of welcome, sudi a stampede 
over the ice, such a willing crowd to help with the 
groaning sledge. The dogs used to look behind them, 
wondering why the load was so light; they lifted 
up their noses and began to trot, and the sledge 
came lurching over the rough track among Uie 
hummocks and stopped with a jerk at the hunter's 
door. In a twinkling the housewife is choosing a 
side for chops, and within an hour the hut is packed 
with friends and relations and casual visitors, chew- 
ing with the utmost gusto at one of the greatest 
luxuries they know — ^the first of the reindeer meat. 



The Spring Futting — Seal-hunting among the Floes — 
Tent Life — ^The Hunteb's Return 


SOON after the home-coming of the last of the 
reindeer-hunters a new excitement began. 
Spring was in the air, though the mice and the little 
snow-buntings were the only living sign of it ; the ice 
was beginning to crack, and the Eskimos were eager 
to get their spring flitting over while travelling was 
safe and easy. Labrador was beginning to wear its 
spring dress» which is another way of saying that the 
snow was melting and making the whole place slushy 
in the daytime, and the black rock was peeping 
through upon the hillsides. All this came about in 
the month of May, when the air was warm by day 
and the nights were short and chilly; and when, as 
the mornings passed, I discovered that one family 
after anothn had moved off in the small hours, I 
made up my mind that I would have a picture of 
the flitting. When I walked along the village in the 
evening there was a bustle of packing outside many 
of the houses, but at four in the morning, when I 
came out with my camera, there was nothing but a . 
glimpse of the tail of a sledge as it careered round the 
bend out of the bay. I gathered that the people had 
been up most of the night, for when an Eskimo sets 
his mind on doing a thing there is very little rest for 
him until he has done it. During the day I came 

upon Jakobus polishing his sledge runners, a sure 

241 a 


deer hunt was coming. Presently the word went 

round that the Nautsertortut (scouts) were out» and 

the excitement became intense. This was early in 

March, and all day long the people were going in 

twos and threes to the top of the nearest hill, to 

watch the sledge track for the home-coming of the 

scouts. Custom has fixed Easter Tuesday as the 

day for the beginning of the hunt, and although the 

custom is a comparatively new one, introduced to 

give the hunters the opportunity of attending the 

special services in the church during the Passion 

Week, it is very loyally observed : no Eskimo would 

dream of cutting the services to go a-hunting, but so 

eager are they to have everything ready, and so full 

are they of the all-important subject of the reindeer, 

that before Easter comes several of the men will 

certainly go to spy out the land and to bring back 

reports of the probable whereabouts of the deer. 

This is especially the case when Easter falls late; 

and when I missed this or that familiar face about 

the village and asked *^ Jonase nannek& ? " I was able 

to anticipate the answer, '* Nautsertorpok ^' (he has 

gone to scout). The scouts seldom bring home any 

venison ; they have done their part if they bring 

home a report, such as ^' I saw no reindeer yet," or 

** I have seen tracks, kannitom6k6rput " (they seem to 

be near) ; or, best of all, '^ I saw three deer in the 

distance, sivorli6jut (the leaders) probably.'* Then 

the excitement bubbles over into energy. Men 

stand grouped round sledges on the snow, planing 

and smoothing and polishing the runners, binding up 

slack joints and patching weak places with iron 

plates ; harpoons are shoved among the rafters of the 

roof, and kajaks are hoisted on poles, out of reach of 



the prowling dogs; women are stitching as if for 
dear life, getting the boots and clothing ready for 
the great occasion ; there is stir and bustle all day 

To my mind the most interesting of all these 
preparations is the mending of the guns. I had seen 
them at this odd occupation many times before I 
discovered what they were about 

A man wanders out of his hut with a gun upon 

his shoulder and a cluster of fiiends at his heels. He 

sits down upon a lump of ice» and some lad or other 

hurries off to set a mark on one of the hummocks, 

fifty or sixty yards away. Then the firing begins, 

and after each shot there is a hubbub of voices, and 

the gun is passed from hand to hand. Perhaps some 

famous hunter tries a shot, and delivers a slow and 

weighty opinion, whereupon the voices start jabbering 

again. When he thinks the trial has been sufficient 

to assure him of the weaknesses of his weapon, the 

owner of the gun hammers the barrel with a stone 

and tries another shot. It is not likely that one 

hammering wiU satisfy him; perhaps he has 

^* straightened " it a little too much, and must give 

it a few thumps on the other side : he smacks away 

at it with his stone, and cocks his eye along it and 

hammers again, and tries another shot; and so the 

performance goes on, to the accompaniment of serious 

and critical remarks, until the gun is ** mended." It 

matters not the least what sort of a gun it be ; a new 

and costly rifle gets just the same treatment as the 

veriest old blunderbuss with its stock bound round 

with twine: whatever the gun, the barrel must be 

made to accord with Eskimo ideas of straightness ; 

and the queer thing is that the owner of the gun, 



once it is properly *' mended/' can shoot with the 
most deadly aim. It seems to suit him the better far 
the hammering it gets* It is no easy matter to get a 
sight of this curious performance, because as soon as a 
European comes walking along the hammering stops, 
and nothing more than mere gun practice seems to 
be going on. The Eskimos are rather shy of their 
characteristic little ways ; and, of course, to £uropeaD 
eyes the gun was good enough to begin with, and the 
hammering might easily be a laughing matter. As 
the days passed onftowards Easter, and every day I 
saw the same gun-practice, and gun-deaning, and 
cartridge-filling, I was surprised that there woe no 
accidents ; the people seem so careless of their fire- 
arms that any one might well expect to hear of 
several fatalities every year. But as I look back over 
the eight years that J have known the Eskimos, I 
can count the gun accidents on the fingers <^ one 
hand, and I only know of one that ended fatally. 
The fact is that their carelessness is more seeming 
than real, though they do run the most foolish risk 
at times. 

While an Eskimo is engaged on the cleaning of 
his gun it is quite a likely thing for the wad to stick. 
The man pokes a plug of greasy tow into the 
barrel, and the harder he pokes the tighter it wedges. 
Perhaps he remembers to put the ramrod in at the 
other end of the barrel, and push the wad out the 
way it went in; perhaps he heats it red hot and 
makes it bum its way through ; but as likely as not, 
especially if he is an inexperienced young fellow, he 
loses patience, and loads his gun and tries to fire the 
obstruction out. I knew a man at Hebron who 
tried this dodge. The wad was too tightly jammed 


to be shifted by a bullet, and the effect of the 
remendous force was to raise a big blister on the 
3axrel 1 Happily the steel was too tough to explode, 
>r "that adventurous young Eskimo would have been 
iviped out. He came running to the missionary, 
brandishing his blistered gun. '^ No good/* he said, 
'* can't shoot with this gun any more — ^please cut him 
short." So the missionary filed the band off behind 
ttie blister, and thus the gun became a sort of exag- 
^^erated pistol; and the proud and smiling owner 
^WB3 in time for the reindeer hunt, and did welL 

So much for gun accidents ; but I must confess 
that, rare as mishaps are, I used to watch the annual 
gun-tinkering with a good deal of anxiety for the 
safety of my apparently venturesome Eskimo 

All this is a prelude to the reindeer hunt ; and at 
last the great day comes, and with shoutings and 
cracking of whips the sledges are away in the dark 
of the morning, and the hunters have started. I 
have watched them off in the gathering light, stem- 
faced and eager, each man to his own sledge, and 
mostly alone. A boy of thirteen is handy with a 
gun, and useful to take care of the dogs ; but smaller 
folk must stay at home, beseech they never so prettily. 
The reindeer himt is no time for useless weight upon 
the sledge : I knew a man who took his wife with 
him, but the lady had to walk the seventy or eighty 
miles home, trailing laboriously [beside the sledge, 
because there was such a load of meat and skins 
that the dogs could pull no more ; and up the hills 
she tasted the realities of the reputed third-class 
passage of the old English coaching days — ** (^et off 

and shove." 



On Easter Tuesday morning the sledges make 
their start, and track westward up the firozen rivers 
and through the winding valleys to the moss-covered 
wilderness where the reindeer find their food. The 
hunters have no luggage on their sledges : no tent, 
no sleeping gear, only a scrap of dried seal meat or 
fish for themselves and the dogs, and a gun, an axe, 
a knife, a packet of sticking plaster for the inevitable 
cuts, and a tin of grease for their sunburnt lips and 
cheeks — ^that is their whole equipment, with the 
occasional addition of a kettle for the making of a 
cup of Eskimo tea, weak as water, and flavoured 
with a mouthfiil of molasses out of a bottle. 

They start together, but after a while they get 
separated, and travel in ones and twos, or alone. 
This man's dogs are slow, and lag behind ; the other 
man wants to try such and such a valley instead of 
the beaten traU ; and so they separate. 

When night comes they build snow huts for 
shelter, and sleep on a bed of dogs' harness spread on 
the hard snow floor — ^not for any great comfort there 
is in it, but because if they left it outside the dogs 
would devour it in the night. In the morning each 
man boils his own tea and munches his own solitary 
feed of dried meat or ship's biscuits, harnesses his 
team, and drives on alone. Alone he travels where 
his fancy leads him : he will find the deer. Solitude 
has no terrors for the Eskimo; it wakens his best 
instincts ; it matters not that he meets nobody, sees 
nobody ; alone he finds his way to the hunt and back 
again, trusting to his marvellous memory for land- 
marks, and guided by the stars and the sunrise. ^ ^ 

It was a bleak, raw morning when I first saw the 

reindeer hunters start: they had their skin clothes 



tied round with scarves to keep the wuxl out» and 
they had their heads down as they faced the bleak 
^usts. Before ten o'clock a hurricane was raging, 
and I feared for the safety of the men. But they 
came back, with the storm roaring behind them; 
first Jerry, then Abia, then others in twos and 
threes, all with the same tale — ^^Ajomarpok (it is 
impossible), we must start again to-morrow." *^ Are 
you all safe ? " I asked them ; and Jerry counted them 
over on his fingers. " Yes,'* he said, " we are all 
here : all except Johannes." ^^ And Johannes, where 
is he ? " " Atsuk " — the laconic answer, so character- 
istic of the Eskimo — " I don't know." But I was 
anxious. •* Un^t," they said — as if to say, " Just 
don't you bother your head about Johannes; you 
can't lose him, we all know that. He's safe enough." 
Next day was stormy again, and there was no 
Johannes. I thought of search parties, but the 
people only smiled ; and, when the weather cleared, 
off they went again with then* dogs and their sledges, 
with never a word about the missing man. For ten 
days nothing happened ; then the women waiting on 
the hill yelled ** Kemmutsit, kemmutsit " (a sledge, a 
sledge), and I climbed the hill and saw a dot of a 
sledge and a tiny blur of dogs with an active little 
ant of a driver slipping slowly down from the woods 
at the mouth of the big river to the wood-cutters' 
track over the ice. 

'^Johannes, immakka," they said, and strolled 
down the hill to meet him. And Johannes it was, 
^niling and happy, and brown and well; proudly 
shoving at a sledge piled high with meat and skins, 
and shouting and cooing and chuckling to the toiling 

I 887 


flitters chase the seak among the floating ice-pans. 
Boats and kajaks are the order of the hunt, and speed 
is the great thing needed, because the seals have lost 
their winter coat of fat, and sink as soon as they are 
dead* A wounded seal dives, or, if too hard hit to 
dive, floats, flapping its flippers, on the surface ; a dead 
seal sinks, and because he does not want to lose it^ 
the hunter who uses a gun makes a frantic dash for 
the place where the seal showed itself, paddling or 
rowing his hardest as soon as his shot is fired. The 
men, and boys too, for that matter, are complete 
masters of their kajaks, wonderfuUy speedy and 
remarkably safe, but they are not so versed in what 
I might call acrobatic kajaking as the Greenland 
Eskimos. Nothing delighted my Okak neighbours 
better than to be told about the Karfilit (Green- 
landers) ; they listened open-mouthed to any news 
of these Innuit over the water, and feasted their eyes 
on the photographs of the fleets of short kajaks at of 
the people in their quaint costumes ; they stared with 
wonder when they heard how the Greenlanders can 
turn themselves and their kajaks right side up if they 
happen to upset, for the Labrador men have forgotten 
how to do that. 

Most of the men prefer guns to harpoons for the 
spring hunting, and take their stand in a smaU boat 
with a boy as oarsman ; the boy's duty is to steady 
the boat on the water, and then to ply his oars wilji 
all his might as soon as the shot is fired ; and I have 
watched the boats drifting aimlessly among the floes, 
the man with gun poised ready, the boy with oars 
upon the water, letting the boat turn idly round and 
round because of the impossibility of knowing where 

a seal's head might pop up. It must be exasperating 



to a man to see the head come up and gaze and sink, 
all in a moment, in an unexpected quarter, so that he 
has hardly time to train his gun upon it ; but, how- 
ever aggravating the seals may be, an Eskimo does 
not lose his temper over his hunting; and as for 
swearing — why, the Eskimo language contains no 
oaths, and the few mild remarks that an Eskimo can 
make in his own tongue, such as ** Kappianarm§k " 
(how dreadful), or " Ai-ai-kuUuk ** (that miserable 
thing), he makes where they can be applied literally. 
Useless expletives are as foreign to his nature as 
they are to his vocabulary. 

Not all the families that flit in the springtime go 
seal-hunting among the breaking ice. There are 
some whose thoughts turn to the trout that have 
spent the winter in the ponds among the hills, and 
that are waking from their lethargy for the spring 
run to the sea ; and so a good many of the sledges 
are piled high with nets amid all the other luggage, 
and the drivers turn the dogs' noses west instead of 
eastward when the sledges reach the mouth of the 
bay. As for as money goes, trout-fishing is a more 
paying game than seal-hunting; it is always fairly 
certain, and salt trout fetches a good price at the 

The favourite way is to spread nets in the 
shaUow water where the big rivers run into the 
sea, and clear them after every tide. 

Clearing the nets sounds a small thing, but it 

means more than just taking out the great wriggling 

fish ; if a man wants to have a good haul every time, 

he needs to clear away every fragment of weed, and 

that will take him the best part of the day: Floating 

pieces of ice must be towed to a safe distance, and 



rents In the net must be mended; and, with one 

thing and another^ the men are busy enough, and 

are quite willing to leave the women to split and 

salt the trout. Some of the families are splendid 

fisher-folk ; one little man calmly answered '^ Forty 

barrels" when I asked him how many trout he 

generally managed to get in a season. 

I had a little trout net of my own in Okak Bay, 

just opposite the hospital, and I could often see by 

the commotion in the water whether there were any 

fish in the net. I usually did the fisherman's work 

myself — ^when there were only a few fish. But if a 

strong tide came and brought twenty or thirty fish, 

my hands refused to do it; after half-an-hour's 

dabbling in the icy water my fingers were numb and 

my wrists used to ache with the cold, and I had to 

call an Eskimo boy to finish the job. Eskimo hands 

are made for cold work; ice and water are very 

ordinary things for them to touch — and, once again, 

I cannot but feel that the Eskimo is the very man 

for the Labrador life. 

' / The village seemed very desolate while the people 

^were away at their trouting and seaUng places ; there 

were only the workpeople about the store and Mission 

premises to give the place a touch of life ; and during 

the daytime, while liiey were all at work, it seemed 

like some deserted village of a bygone generation. 

The windows were boarded up, doors were locked 

or fastened with tags of rope, and only the savage 

mother-dogs, that nursed their broods of puppies 

under the doorsteps, witnessed to the fact that these 

huts, looking so tumble-down now that the snow 

had melted away from them and had washed the 

packing of moss out of the crevices, were, after all, 










the homes of families of hunters who were plying 
their craft in their aceeustomed way, and who would 
return when winter came again and turn them once 
more into homes. 

After the last of the spring flitters had gone a 
change came over the ice on the bay. Cracks and 
pools appeared, scraps of wood along the sledge 
track sank into the ice by the warmth they absorbed 
from the sun, and dotted the path with holes ; the 
cracks grew and multiplied and met, the tides oozed 
upon the beach and the stones began to show, until, 
slowly and quietly, the great stretch of ice changed 
from a floating sheet to a dose-packed mass of 
floating pieces. The tides shuffled them and spread 
them ; and, by the last week in June, we were only 
waiting for a strong west wind to carry the ice away 
to the^ open ocean and set us a-talking of summer. 
As I took one of my walks through the silent village 
early in the July of 1904, enjoying all the new ex- 
hilaration of open water (for the ice had floated off 
the day before and made us feel that we were at last 
living by the seaside again), I heard a sudden shout. 
A babel of shrill voices was rising from the blubber 
yard, where the women were chopping up blubber 
for the steeping-tanks ; and as I turned to pick my 
way along the sloppy path, all criss-crossed and 
channelled by scores of tiny rivulets that trickled 
from the melting snow on the hillside, I fell in with 
a rushing procession of children and dogs all making 
for the landing-place. The jetty in front of the 
Mission house looked busy; it was crowded with 
workpeople, all yelling ** Umiat " (a boat) at the top 
of their voices. The blubber-women had left their 

greasy task, and were there in all the realism of oil- 



sodden sackcloth overalls ; the two old widows who 
had been digging in the garden had flung down their 
spades and were running as £ast as their old legs 
would carry them ; the cooper had dropped his tools 
and left his shop to join in the excitement; the 
chinmey-sweep, black and grimy, was scrambling 
down from the roof, bursting to tell what he had 
seen from his perch ; the missionary had his head out 
of window, with a telescope to his eye, trying to 
make out what was coming ; everybody was shouting 
and jabbering and laughing. We are a strange folk 
in Labrador ; ours is a quiet, humdrum sort of life, 
for the most part, and we get into the habit of 
making a great to-do about the little varieties that 
come our way. 

After all, this cry of ^^ A boat '' only meant that 
one of the hunters was coming home ; but it was 
the first boat of the season, and that made all the 
difierence. The chimney-sweep had seen it first, 
and had given a shout that roused the blubber- 
women in the yard below; and so the commotion 
began. Soon I saw the boat for myself, a small 
brown speck on the water, near the southern point 
of the mouth of the bay. ^* Two masts,*' said the 
chinmey-sweep : to my eyes the thing was only a 
brown dot. '' Three people at the oars,'' said a voice, 
"and a woman sitting in the bows." "Yes, yes 
(chorus), a woman in the bows." "Jonasekut, 
immakka " (probably Jonas's people), said the cooper. 
" lUale " (of course), chorussed the others, " it must 
be Jonas and his two boys at the oars, and Prisdlla 
in the bows." 

Then there was quiet for a few minutes, while the 
brown dot grew steadily larger. At last it turned to 


^ tack and I saw the two masts and the four people. 

t '^ lUa, ilia/' cried a shrill old voice, ** it is Jonasekut ; 

'i see that white patch on the sail ; I helped Friscilla to 
sew that on." ^* Boat seems loaded," said the cooper ; 

{f ** plenty seals, maybe." ^^ Nakomdk " (how thankfid), 

^ said the chorus ; and so the excited talk went on until 
the boat, with a last long tack, swept gently along- 
side the jetty. " Jonase-ai," was the greeting — a 
sort of familiar ** Hello, Jonas." *^ Ah," said Jonas, 
'* Aksuse " ; and he began to hand out the meat. His 

; gi™g ,«m«l qmte Ldiserimu^te, «d .v«ybody 

J got a share. ChUdren ran home, chattering and 
laughing with glee, carrying between them great 
slabs of raw flesh, with a train of dogs slinking 
furtively behind them in hopes of an accidental share ; 
older folks followed more sedately, hugging bowls 
and tubs of meat, but all with the same delighted 
grin upon their faces in anticipation of that most 
luscious of all Eskimo dainties, fresh-killed seal. 

I really wondered, as I watched the scene, whether 
the hunter had anything left for himself. He had, 
but no more than enough for a good square meal ; he 
was quite content to follow the generous custom 
of the people, and share with all and sundry; and 
the skin and blubber were his only payment for his 
trouble and skill. He carried the liver to the 
missionary, and as I watched him I thought that in 
his open-handed giving there was just the same spirit 
that prompted little John to open the circle at the 
dinner bowl to the poor young man. 

This home-coming was the first of many, since 
the open water gave the people the means of travel- 
ling for which they had been waiting ; one day it 

was a seal-hunter, another a trout-fisher from the 



mouth of the big river, and every time there was the 
same shout, the same eager stampede, the same 
chatter of anticipation, the same trot home with 
great hunks of meat or bunches of silvery fish, 
and the same big gipsy-pots bubbling over the open- 
air fires and promising a splendid feast for everybody. 




THE spring seal hunt brings the Eskimo hunting 
year to a close ; with no furs to trap, no seals 
to spear, no reindeer to chase, the Labrador summer 
would find the hunter a disconsolate being were it 
not for the cod-fishing. 

This is the great thing that makes the months of 
August and September the busiest in the whole year. 
Day in and day out the boats are on the water, with 
men and boys sitting in them fishing from morning 
till night — ^aye, and all night long if fish are plentiful. 
It is a big test of Eskimo patience, to jerk the bright 
leaden lure, with its two barbed hodcs, up and down 
within a few feet of the bottom of the sea ; jerk, jerk, 
jerk, hour after hour, when fish are rather scarce and 
only the plodder can hope to succeed; but there 
come times when the fish are so plentiful that they 
are on the hook before it is well sunk, and there 
is a spice of excitement in hauling up as fast as your 
hands can pull, and dropping the hook again for 
more and more and more. But in spite of the 
excitement, *' jigging," as it is called among the 
fishermen, is horribly cold work on dull, bleak days, 
and I was not surprised to find the Eskimos wearing 
gloves of seal leather on their plump hands to prevent 
the line from chafing them. In ordinary times the 
men and boys do the fishing, and leave the women 

and girls to attend to the splitting and salting, but 



when they light upon one of the vast shoals of fish 
that seem to swarm from place to place, the whole 
family goes out in the boat, and the baby in the 
mothers' hood is the only one that seems too small to 
ply the jigger, and tiny children somehow manage, 
with much struggle and determination, to land fish 
almost as big as themselves. 

The quantity of codfish is astonishing; they 
must literally teem in countless myriads along^ the 
coast ; for year after year not only the Eskimos, but 
hundreds of schooner crews from Newfoundland, 
gather them by barrelfuls — I might say tons — and 
year after year the fish we there, seemingly as 
plentiful as ever. It is a fine living, the cod-fishing ; 
the people look to it for their main supply of those 
things that money can buy, and a good season may 
not only pay the debts which a man has made at 
the store during the winter and spring, but give him 
new tools, a new gun, a harmonium, or even a so& 
for his house. 

Though the drying of the fish is a thing that 
they have had to learn, they put every bit as much 
care into it as they do into all the hunting which is 
natural to them; and I have been amused to see 
how they scurry when a sudden shower of rain 
comes and threatens to damp the half-dry fish that 
lies upon the rocks. 

This is the time when the ships and the visitors 

come to Labrador ; the time when the cod-fishing is 

in full swing, and when, as a visitor cmce said to me, 

" The whole place smells of fish " ; the time when 

the Eskimos live scattered along the shores of the 

bays and runs. There are a few little huts and iglos 

still to be seen, where families have found a good 







fishing-place and return to it year after year; but 

most of the people live in tents. Tents are ideal 

summer dwellings for a people who are, at heart, 

wanderers ; and the Eskimos are restless beings-^they 

N like to follow the call of their hunting, and to make 

\tbeir temporary home where their work is. Not 

many years ago the tents, all along the coast, were 

of reindeer skins stitched together with sinew and 

stretched on poles with the hairy side outward ; and 

no doubt some of the people will live in skin tents to 

the end, so loth are they to give up the customs of 

their lives. 

But calico tents are becoming very popular — and 

a good thing, too. They are lighter and airier than 

skin tents, and afford just as good a protection from 

the weather; but the Eskimos like them because 

they are so easily mended. If an August storm 

tears a tent to ribbons or hurls it bodily into the 

raging sea, the owner and his family have no 

need to spend the rest of the season packed like 

sardines on the floor of some other man's tent, 

waiting for the next year's reindeer hunt to come 

round before making a bid for a new one ; no, when 

the storm has passed, the father takes his boat and 

hies him to the store, and spends a few dollars of his 

fish-money on a roll of calico which his wife will very 

speedily turn into a tent. 

But even this is not the chief reason to Eskimo 

minds. Portability is the thing; and a tent that 

packs up into a neat little bundle, and can be stowed 

away in the bottom of a boat or can be used to cover 

the load on a sledge without making the pile too 

high and top-heavy for the passengers, is a grand 

thing compared with the bulky heap of reindeer skin 



that takes up so much room. Another reason that 
has struck me in favour of the calico tent is that 
calico is not particularly tempting to the appetite of 
the dogs. I can well imagine that a tent of dried 
reindeer skins might prove quite a toothsome meal 
for a pack of famished sledge dogs; but I have 
never heard of them devouring a calico tent whole- 
sale, though they are not averse to an occasional 
chew at the oil-sodden margins. 

And so the Eskimos spend their summer, dwell- 
ing in tents, fishing and drying their catch upon the 
rocks, until by the end of September the main rush 
of the codfish is over, and the people make their way 
home again to the Mission villages, bringing their 
fish bundled ready for the Harmony to take it to 

In the old days, I suppose, before there inras a 
market for their fish, the people did as I found ihem 
doing at KiUinek — they hunted the seals and the 
white bears. But the seals are gone northward; 
they have learnt better than to stay about the villages 
of the Eskimos, and nowadays do no more than pass 
them by in the autunm and the spring. As for the 
white bears, a stray one sometimes comes along the 
coast with the ice, and becomes the centre of a 
furious hunt and the cause of a great deal of chat- 
tering about " nennok " (white bear) over the pipes 
in the evening ; but the most of the nennoks have 
retreated to tibe Button Islands and other desolate 
spots where there is no smell of man to disturb 

A beady-eyed little Eskimo came into my room 

one evening, hugging a bulky package which he 

dumped upon the floor. 



^' Nennok,'' he explained, ^* half of him : you buy 
him, eh ? " 

He um*olled his package and named his price, 
and I found myself examining the hinder part of a 
big bearskin. 

•• Where is the rest of himi '* I asked ; and then 
I got the story. 

It appears that this man and another were out 
in a little boat, jigging for codfish, when they saw a 
white bear swimming in the sea. Like true Eskimos 
they fell to their oars, and got the boat between 
the bear and the shore, so as to head him off! 
They had no gun to shoot him, but this was a 
secondary consideration; the great idea was that 
they were within hunting distance of a nennok, and 
hunt him they would. They chased him to and 
fro until he began to tire, and then they assailed 
him with their oars, hammering prodigiously at his 
head. He tried to get into the boat, and at that 
they hammered the more, until they had him 
stunned and helpless. Then they towed his carcase 
ashore, and set about sharing him. 

It did not happen to strike them that they might 
sell the skin and divide the money, and so reap a 
reasonable reward for their adventure ; no, they cut 
the bear in two, and each appropriated an end. 
They were disgusted to find that they had entirely 
spoilt the market value of the skin : no trader wanted 
half a bear 1 

That was the only polar bear that visited Okak 

during my five years there; and I have that piece 

of bearskin to-day to remind me of the marvellous 

pluck of those two Eskimos, who attacked a polar 

bear with no better weapons than their oars. 

257 K 


Though the summer may sound a very tame 
time from a hunter's point of view, there is one 
occupation that keeps everybody busy. I mean, 
fighting the mosquitoes. 

From the beginning of July to the end of 
August, and even later, the summer air of Labrador 
swarms with (countless hosts of bloodthirsty gnats. 
The supply is unlimited. 

Mosquitoes, we call them ; and rightly, I suppose, 
for their scientific name is Culex; and they live 
fully up to the evil repute that their fiamily has 
for biting and stinging and bu2szing and swarming 
around. How, thought I, can one be expected to 
enjoy this lovely scenery, these otherwise delightful 
walks among the hills, if one is compelled to be 
encased in a gauze veil and a pair of thick gloves ? 
The buzzing creatures perch on the meshes of your 
veil, and you can see them striving to get through ; 
if you have not adopted Eskimo boots, which reach 
up to your knees, they climb about your knitted 
socks, and sit there, biting yoiur ankles between the 
strands of wool, and you can almost imagine them 
kicking their heels with delight at the convenience 
of having something to stand on while they ply their 
nefarious trade. 

There is a hideous fascination about watching 

the mosquitoes: you may slap and dance, but 

however many you may kill there are always plenty 

waiting their turn, and the only satisfaction you get 

is in the knowledge that new-comers receive an 

extra share of their attentions, and that some day 

you will be hardened. The first bites may produce 

really alarming results. I am sure that I took all 

due precautions, the first ni^t that I slept on shore 



in Labrador, but a mosquito must have crawled 
under my door in the darkness, for in the morning 
I could only open one eye, and the question that 
greeted me at the breakfast table was, *' Have you 
bumped yourself?"' The first summer is a sort of 
inoculation time ; afterwards the bites do not sting 
and itch so badly as the first ones did, and you do 
not notice the attentions of the gnats nearly so much. 
Some of the oldest residents seem quite hardened or 
bite^proof, or perhaps they are too highly flavoured 
with tobacco. This last holds good for the Eskimos : 
they light their pipes and go about their work, 
perhaps with a handkerchief over their necks, perhaps 
without, while the mosquitoes buzz about and try to 
dodge the smoke. 

I used to find a veil rather a trying and *' head- 
achey " thing, and spent a good deal of thought in an 
attempt to devise some other method of protection, 
but without much success. Measures which act 
very well with the milder kind of flies are quite use- 
less with our ravenous Labrador mosquitoes. 

One adventure that I had in my search for a 
gnat-cure may be worth recording. It happened to 
be church-cleaning time. The church was in the 
hands of a bevy of muscular Christians in the form 
of Eskimo women, and as the weather was fine the 
missionary decided to hold service out of doors. 
Would I give the people an address? It was a 
charming day towards the end of July, one of those 
calm days when Labrador seems at its best ; but, as 
is their habit on a warm day, the mosquitoes were 
holding carnival My listeners were all busy fly- 
flapping; but a man who essays to deliver an 

address cannot be all the time whisking gnats off 



his face, nor could I imagine myself talking fiom 
within the stifling folds of a brilliant green veil, so I 
sought advice. One good Samaritan in the company 
proffered a compound of his own concoction, wfaidi 
he firmly believed would frighten any ordinary 
mosquito yards away; so I willingly and gladly 
accepted the brown, gummy-looking stuff, and gave 
my hands and face a good plastering with it Quite 
likely all the strength or virtue had long ago evapo- 
rated out of the compound, for it had little or no 
smeU, and I realised afterwards, when it was too 
late, that I had converted myself for all practical 
purposes into an animated *^ fly-paper." For the 
first few minutes the mosquitoes seemed rather 
surprised; they buzzed round my face in an angry 
swarm, but hesitated to dip their trunks into the 
paint. At last a bold pioneer made a dash for my 
nose, and stuck fast He hummed and buzzed and 
struggled for his life. 

This was more than flesh and blood could 
stand ; I tried to brush him off— and squashed him I 
That was bad enough; but worse was to follow, 
for either the gnats were on their mettle, determined 
to bite if they died for it, or else the tragic fate 
of their leader fired them to frenzy, for they bit 
and bit and bit ; and by the end of the hour I had 
a fine swollen red face, shiny with treacle and all 
dotted with black — and somebody told me that 
I looked like a currant bun. That was the last 
trial I made of amateur compounds: since then I 
have confined myself to the *' dopes" that are to 
be bought in the shops, and that are really of use. 

I spent part of my first July in building the 
bridge over the stream that runs between Okak 


Hospital and the church. On the whole my four 

workmen got on very weU» though they usually 

wanted to do things in their own way» and got into 

some amusing predicaments in consequence. I once 

found them shaking their heads very seriously over 

a beam that would not fit. They tried it one way, 

and found it too long ; then they laboriously heaved 

it round the other way, but it was still too long. 

They had shaped and notched the ends, ready to 

be dovetailed into place, but had forgotten to make 

the beam the right length first. What must they 

do ? Measure it, cut a piece off one end, and shape 

the end again. " Ai, ai," they said, '' kappg, what 

a lot of trouble." And then I stumbled over my 

first great difficulty with the Eskimo language. I 

rolled out a couple of long words, carefully compiled 

from the grammar book, but I really did not know 

whether I was saying ** Measure your beams first, 

then notch them," or '* Notch your beams first and 

then measure them " ; and I thought it well to give 

a pantomimic demonstration, which I hope they 

understood. Anyhow, we built the bridge, and it 

looks all right to this day. 

I was advised to get some painting done before 

the mosquitoes became too plentiful, so I set a 

party of workmen to paint the hospital as soon as 

the bridge was ready. The painting passed off 

pretty well, excepting that the dogs regarded our 

paint — made of seal-oil and whiting, boiled together 

— as a special sort of thick soup cooked for their 

benefit, and devoured as much of it, and as many 

of the paint-brushes, as they could get : they even 

licked the walls clean, as high as they could reach, 

after the workmen had gone home. On the whole 



the workless dogs in the summer time are a nuisance, 
and it was partly on their account that I had to put 
railings round the hospital. The roomy porch was 
a haven of peace for them ; they used to wait on 
the steps for the door to be opened, and then sneak 
in and snuggle down in the hope of passing un- 
obseryed. More than once they got beyond the 
inner door, and came sUnking into the kitchen, 
snuffling and whistling at the smell of cookery; 
and then followed a nightmare chase, we shouting 
and stamping, they tearing round and round in 
a blind hunt for the way out. I sometimes dream 
about them yet ; the din was awfiil : the great 
hulking things ran round and round, upsetting chairs 
and buckets, yelping and squealing, trying to hide 
in impossible comers and crannies behind the water 
tanks, getting more and more miserable and fright- 
ened, until at last they found the door and scrambled 
through it with terrified faces and drooping tails. 
By the time the painting was done the cod-fishing 
had commenced, and the men wanted to be off, 
so I let them all go but the two carpenters, staid 
and solid Eskimos both, and clever with their tools. 
The idea I had in my mind was to put up a series of 
posts, five feet and six inches high, fixed firmly to 
a long beam buried in the sand of the foundation ; 
to these posts we could fix a number of hurdle-like 
railings, and have them removable so as to store 
them in the loft before the winter storms began. 
I fancy that the two carpenters were a trifle jealous 
of each other, for the younger man was the cleverer, 
and took the more responsible part of the work. 
I gave him instructions to make the posts five feet 

and six inches high, and he set to work amiably 



enough. The other man asked my friend the 
missionary, who was acting as adviser and interpreter 
and general helper in difficulties, how high he should 
make them. 

'<Five feet, abvalo (and a half)," said the 

That was the starting-point of quite an argument 
between the two Eskimos, and we found it necessary 
to explain with the aid of the foot-rule that the two 
things were the same. These men both knew 
perfectly well how many inches there are in a foot ; 
but I have often thought, since then, that our two 
ways of putting it were not quite the same to 
Eskimo minds. 

Oh, those railings 1 I can see in my mind's eye a 
row of tousled little heads, with bright little eyes all 
peering to see what mystery there was behind them ; 
and I laugh when I think how those heads used to 
disappear if I tapped at the window, and leave 
nothing but a row of little knuckles clinging, until 
first one and then another mop of hair rose slowly to 
view when those bright little Eskimo laddies thought 
that the doctor had gone again. 



Startino thb Hospital — The Crowd and the SiNoiNa 

AS the village was pretty well filled with people, 
£\^ and most of the actual building work was 
finished, I thought it a good plan to open the 
hospital without further delay, and so allow things 
to idiape themselves before the busiest of the winter's 
bustle began. 

The simplest plan would be, I thought, to have 
the opening announced to the people in church after 
one of the evening meetings, and the missionary 
kindly agreed to do this. 

The wording seemed ordinary enough to my 

"To-morrow the doors of the hospital will be 
opened at nine o'clock in the morning '' — 

Put into literal Eskimo ; but it must have been, 
in some way or other, too blunt, for the people were 
amazed beyond belief. 

I see quite clearly that it would have been better 
to make a long speech of explanaticm, because the 
idea of a hospital was quite new to them; but I 
know the Eskimo and the working of his mind in a 
way that I did not at that time. The fact remains, 
that the people were mystified. I was called back 
into the church after the meeting, and found a rather 
excited congregation, all eager to speak at once. 

" Why must the people come to hospital at nine 

o'clock ? " 



<* Because it is a custom of all hospitals to fix 
some such hpur." 

^* Then are the people of England always ill at 
nine o'clock in the morning? If I expected the 
Eskimos always to be ill at a fixed time there was no 
sense in it The people must be ill whenever they 

I tried to argue — " Certamly the door is open at 
all times for accidents and sudden sickness " — but it 
was useless : they had got the idea into their heads 
that some newfangled notion was being thrust upon 
them, and, in the natural conservatism of their 
minds, they resented it, just as they are inclined to 
resent all other innovations at first sight. The only 
possible thing to do, as I found all through my deal- 
ings with my simple-minded neighbours, was to keep 
to my word and let things shape themselves. 

** Keep literally to what you say," said Mr. Simon : 
^' any change of front makes the people suspicious." 

I turned to the people : '* Tava " (finished), said 
I, in my poor halting attempt at their language. '* I 
shall say no more; the doors will be open at nine 
to-morrow " — and then I left them. 

No doubt they went home and palavered the 
business half the night; and I was more than a 
trifle worried, it seemed such a hard reception for 
my cherished plans. But the missionary only smiled. 
*' It will come out all right," he said. 

In the morning there were three people waiting 

for the opening of the doors of the new out-patients' 

department, and I breathed freely again. It was all 

right: the people were my friends. That was the 

beginning; and morning by morning they came, 

with their plaints and their troubles and their 



requests — odd and ludicrous and touching by turns. 
One of the very first visitors was old Maria, the village 
^^ character," a well-meaning old body, no doubt, 
amiable and friendly, but not over-endowed with 
reasoning powers. She gave a very chiuracteristic hint 
of her idea of the functions of a hospital by asking 
for "eye-medicine." and rambUng off immediately 
into a long explanation. ** I have lost the cover of 
my pipe," she said, and between the words she stooped 
down and hitched a dingy and battered-looking 
tobacco-pipe out of the leg of her boot. ** I have lost 
the cover of it," she repeated, *' and the wind blows 
the smoke into my eyes and makes them smart. I 
want good medicine to cure that " 1 That word for 
*' medicine" was one of the first of the many 
curiosities of the Eskimo language that I learnt 
Theur plan is to tack the ending ^* siumik " on to the 
name for any part of the body where they have 
pain, and so build up a word that means medicine 
for that particular pain. Maria's request was a 
simple one — ^ije-siumik (eye-medicine) — but some of 
the others were not so plain. I remember one 
square-shouldered little man, with a heavy mop of 
hair streaked with grey, who marched solenmly in 
and asked for ** tooth-medicine." The offer of some 
toothache tincture caused him to shake his head 
resolutely. ''Oukak" (no), he said, ** kikkiamik 
piumavunga" (I want the iron sort), and down he 
sat, pointing a stubby finger at a huge molar. 
There was no mistaking his meaning, though it 
may seem queer ** medicine " ; and very soon he 
was ambling home with many smiles and mutterings 
of ** Thankie " after the '* iron sort of tooth medicine " 
had pulled out the offendiog tooth. 



After that I thought it well to dig into the depths 
of the grammar book, and I fomid that '* siut " or 
'^siumik'' literally means <^ something used for." 
That made it plain — ^^ something used for toothache/' 
As if to make things more interesting, within the 
next day or two I heard somebody talking about 
** Sontage-siumik," meaning his '' Sunday clothes " : 
but more was to follow, for a sledge driver came to 
ask if I had ^' silla-siumik " (weather medicine) 1 This 
was a puzzler ; but the man's restless eyes, roaming 
over my walls, finally fixed their gaze on the baro- 
meter, and I discovered that he wanted to know 
what the '^ siUa-siut " (thing used for the weather) 
had to say about to-morrow's weather prospects t 

But it was not all humour at my nine o'clock 
hour: never a day passed without its touches of 
pathos, and sometimes of tragedy, too. The Eskimos 
are very brave when there is pain to be borne, and 
there are many instances of their endurance written 
in the books at Okak Hospital. I remember how old 
Rebekah came one day, nursing a wounded hand. She 
is one of the stateliest of the village grandmothers, an 
active old woman of sixty-five, with her teeth nearly 
worn to the gums ; but, old as she is, she is well able 
to take an oar in a boat — or a pair, for the matter of 
that — and thinks nothing of trudging to and from 
the woods, five miles away, to fetch broken branches 
to replenish her stove. With proper Eskimo dignity 
she came in and sat down, and composed herself to 
tell her tale ; and all the while she was hugging her 
left hand, swathed in a red bandanna handkerchief. 

** I was making boots just now," she said, <' and 

the leather-knife slipped and cut my thumb. Ai-ai, 

it bled very much, and it was nearly cut off; but I 



had my boot-needle threaded with ivalo (remdeer 
smew), and I sewed my thumb with that, so that it 
no longer bleeds ; and now I have eome to let you 
bind it up/' And there and then the brave old 
woman unwrapped her handkerchief and dispUyed 
her hand, with a long wound neatly sewn up, stitch 
upon 'stitch, in proper bootmaker's style t And I 
think that the ending of the story is appropriate, for 
old Rebekah's vitality and power of repair proved as 
great as her fortitude. 

This just serves to illustrate the native indifference 
to pain; and even in the worst of sufferings their 
attitude is the same. I have seen them, men and 
women, in dingy little huts and in leaky calico tents, 
lying on rough beds of moss and reindeer skins, silent 
and uncomplaining, though their faces were blanched 
and the beads of perspiration stood out under the 
strain of physical suffering. The veiy thought calls 
forth one's sympathy; and the pictures that crowd 
before me as I write — pictures of people toiling up 
the steps of the new hospital, with the marks of pain 
upon their faces and a dumb and eager hopefulness 
shining in their eyes — has left an impression on my 
mind that time will never efface. A strangely attrac- 
tive folk : with children's fears and childhood's quaint 
ideas, and childhood's whims and fancies and un- 
reasoning demands, but with a manly bravery in the 
face of pain or danger, and a manly mastery of the 
terrible rigours of their daily work, that call for 

Before very long the people were well enough 

used to the working of a hospital to make the nine 

o'clock hour a busy one ; and as I was slowly getting 

a grip on the more everyday parts of the Eskimo 



language I thought it would be an excellent plan to 
start each day's work with morning prayers. I told 
the people so. ** Nakom6k, nakom^ " (how thank- 
ful), they said, and nodded, and nudged one another 
in their appreciation of the idea. The word I 
happened to use — ^the morning singing— caught their 
fancy at once, for singing always appeals to them. 
A grim-faced deputation called upon me to know if 
it was true that there was going to be singing at nine 
o'clock. " Yes," said I. " Then the people want to 
know if they may come, even when they are not sick, 
just for the singing, and then go home again." ^* By 
all means, let them come and help with the singing ; " 
and the deputation retired, smiling and nakom6k-ing. 
** Now," thought I, " We are likely to have a crowd : 
what are we to do for benches ? " I set a small boy to 
scour the village for the two worthies who shared 
the honourable and responsible position of public 
carpenter; and when, after a due interval, they 
arrived, having been discovered, without doubt, 
sharing a solid meal of fresh seal meat in some 
hunter's house, I took them into my plans. Peter 
and David, the worthy carpenters in question, nodded 
sagely and said ^^ Taimak " (so be it) ; and we made 
our way to the attic. There we attacked the disused 
packing-cases, and knocked them to pieces and pulled 
the nails out, and planed the boards to a reasonable 
smoothness, and by dint of much measuring and 
sawing and hammering evolved a dozen very decent 
little belches out of the pile. No Mission hospital 
ever had cheaper furniture than our amateur benches ; 
but they served their purpose, and, for all that I know 
to the contrary, they are doing duty at Okak Hospital 

to this day. On the advice of Peter and David we 



made them nice and low, to suit the short Eddmo 
legs ; and though we did not paint them they always 
looked spruce, for Sarah and Valeria, the two char- 
women, took no end of pride in scrubbing them. I 
was very well satisfied with the benches — ^because 
the people liked them. 

As I expected, the room was packed to the 
utmost on the first day of the singing. There were 
seats for about fifty, and as *' first come, first senred ^ 
was the rule, the people began to come early. By 
a quarter to nine there was a crowd on the doorsteps 
— ^not an orderly queue, by any means, but a jolly- 
tempered mob, clinging to the railings and jostliiig to 
get nearer to the door, and constantly reinforced 
by new arrivals fix)m all parts of the village An 
avalanche of boisterous humanity surged in and 
nearly overwhelmed me when I opened the door upon 
the stroke of nine; but it was only a momentary 
boisterousness — at a word the avalanche changed to 
an orderly procession. 

That is one of the many things I like about the 
Eskimos — ^they are staid and decorous in their natural 
demeanour, and so, when it does happen that their 
spirits bubble over and they begin to be noisy, they 
are easy to control. 

The benches were full long before the stream of 

people had ceased, but the folks seemed determined 

to get in; those who could not find room on the 

benches squatted on the floor, and those who were 

unable even to nudge their way into squatting-room 

on the floor stayed in the passage or sat upon the 

stairs, and we left the door open for their benefit 

It was amusing, but quite characteristic, to observe 

that the indefatigable old Maria had somehow 


uinKler in her wbv. She ■• ■ InnoL Blkiiao, with 
squkn face Uld hiffh cheelu, tmall evH mud black 
; typicaU too. in her dupuulion, itolid, bul good- 
<ound and friepdiy. 

Okak Hospital 


managed to get the middle seat on the front row. 
Among the people on the floor between the benches 
I saw big Josef, the mightiest hunter (and therefore 
the richest man) in Okak ; in heathen times he would 
have been a sort of king among the people, because 
he is both the tallest man and the best hunter among 
them ; but he seemed quite happy on the floor. 

We sang a well-known hymn, and the place shook 
with the delightftil noise. I can see the picture as 
I write, and I think that of all my memories of life 
among the Eskimos the most inspiring is the memory 
of that crowd of faces, all wrinkling with pleasure 
and perspiring with the warmthT— and the tremendous 
harmony that filled the room. I seem to hear the 
music now; the women's clear voices trilling out 
the tune, with the altos and tenors and basses blend- 
ing admirably with them. Eskimos always sing 
well, and faU into the parts of the music uncon- 
sciously ; their voices are sometimes harsh and gruff, 
but they are natural singers. Strange that they have 
no music of their own 1 Weird rhythmic chantings 
are all the music that the heathen Eskimo knows ; 
but the soil is there in the people themselves, and 
music has taken root and flourished among them. 

That was the first of many happy mornings ; and 
though the novelty of the thhig was a big attraction 
in the beginning, the people stiU came when the 
novelty had long since worn off, and morning by 
morning, when nine o'clock struck, our benches were 
packed with an eager crowd. 

I soon found out what the people liked best; 
new hymns were the great attraction. Sometimes 
one or other of the missionaries would translate a 
fresh hymn, and I had a busy day printing it on the 


little hand-press that some well-wisher had bequeathed 
to the hospital Next morning a subdued buzz of 
delight would greet the distribution of the printed 
sheets. Once, I remember, I was too busy to print 
a new hymn, so I wrote the words on a bladcboard 
and hung it up in full view. The result -wns just 
what I ought to have foreseen. When I went into 
the room for the meeting everybody was whispering, 
and all throu^ the reading the whispering and 
muttering went on in a subdued sort of way; the 
people were spelling through the new hynm. I 
ought to have known that only a few of them 
can read without making the words ; they need to 
whisper or speak, or at least shape their lips to the 
sound, before they get the meaning — they have not 
the faculty of seeing sounds as we can. There are 
exceptions; Jerry the organist and Juliana and 
Benjamin, the school teachers, can read by thought 
without any mouthing at alL But you can imagine 
that roomful of people, eagerly spelling their way 
through the words of the new hynm on the blade- 
board and paying not the least attention to anything 
else. The new hymn absorbed them. 

I seldom found it necessary to play the tune over 
more than once ; once they had heard it they sang 
it with a swing, imless it were a melody more dull 
and difficult than those to which most modem 
hjrmns are set. 

There was a catastrc^he at one of our nine o'clock 

meetings, in which one of our little benches played 

the leading part. When four good solid Eskimos 

were seated on each of them, the benches were 

well laden, and I used to feel some apprehension as 

I watched the people edging closer and closer 



together to make room for ** just one more/' I felt 
sure that the last straw would be reached some day, 
but the people always said *^ Namatuinarput " (they 
are quite all right) when I expressed my fears. But 
the last straw came — and a very substantial last straw 
it was — in the person of big Tabea. She came in 
rather late one morning and stood looking round 
for a place with all the dignity and consequence 
of the prosperous middle-aged Eskimo matron. 
There were no empty seats, but a comfortable- 
looking party of village worthies made room — or 
an apology for room — for her in the middle of 
their well-filled bench. Tabea sat down ponderously 
and with deliberation ; there was an ominous creak- 
ing and the bench collapsed with a clatter, heaping 
its occupants into a wild scrimmage on the floor. 
I could hardly keep my face straight when I saw 
them shove the broken bench aside and compose 
themselves upon the floor as gravely as you please. 

If all this had happened out of doors they would 
have laughed, I have no doubt, but this was meeting- 
time, when folks do not laugh ; and it speaks well for 
the gravity of the Eskimo character that the ludicrous 
spectacle of the collapsing bench and the struggling 
dignitaries on the floor did not even cause a titter. 

Peter and David stayed behind after prayers, and 
sawed the unfortunate bench into strips, which they 
used to strengthen others that were beginning to 
look rather shaky about the legs ; and I took the 
precaution of announcing a limit to the seating 
capacity of the benches for the future. 

278 s 


Bbds for thk Hospital — Eskimo Patisnts — ^Fbkdino 

THi Sick Folks 

THE summer of 1004 saw the hospital finally 
launched in full going order, for among^ the 
many things that the Harmony brought ^wo^ the 
bedsteads and bedding for the wards. I dare say the 
sight of so many long packing-cases awoke some 
speculation in the minds of the people, and perhaps 
our servant girl only voiced what was in the minds 
of many when she asked what they were. 

She was a bright and active Eskimo girl of eighteoiy 
rejoicing in the picturesque name of Veronica, and 
she touched my arm as the boxes came lumberings up 
the steps, and said '* Hai, sunat ukkoa ? " 

"What are they, Veronica? why, these are the 

'< Bedsteads ? '' — ^this with a puzzled air. 

" Ahaila, beds for the sick people." 

"Sdgle (but why)? — ^there are no sick people: 
old Emilia is the oidy person in bed, and she is not 
sick, only old." 

I tried to explain to her that these bedsteads 
were to be put into the wards in readiness for any 
possible sick persons during the future. 

''Ai, ai," she said, "are there going to be sick 
people? WhowiUitbe?" 

I could not help feeling amused at the simplicity 
of her reasoning, it was so thoroughly Eskimo ; but 



I felt sure in my own mind that it was only 
Veronica's first thought, and that after a little 
deliberation and a few discussions in the houses she 
and all the rest of the people would see the sense in 
these beds. 

I laughed at Veronica, and told her *^ Tukkisilftr- 
potit " (you will understand), and with that she was 
content and went singing back to her work. 

I sometimes wondered, as I worked with Peter 
and David at the laying of linoleum on the ward 
floors, and the fitting up of these bedsteads, how 
the Eskimos would take to the novelty of hospital 
treatment and hospital discipline. 

It seemed rather a puzzle, for the more I saw of 
the Eskimos the more I knew them to be sticklers 
for their own customs and ways; and the more I 
talked to them the oftener I heard one or the other 
say, ^'We are different from the Kablun&ks 

Before many days were past men were coming to 
say <' So-and-so is ill: may we bring him to 
hospital?" and when, a few months later, the sea 
was frozen and travelling was possible from station 
to station over the ice, sledges began to come from 
Hebron and Nain, and even further, bringing sick 
and injured folks to occupy those beds. 

The fortitude that some of these long-distance 

travellers displayed was simply marvellous. Young 

Jerry, at Hebron, when he stumbled among the dogs 

and got his leg smashed by the oncoming sledge, 

elected to ride the sixty rough miles to Okak 

stretched upon the hard floor of a travelling sledge. 

The lad was evidently profiting by his father's 

example, for he told me how, some time previously, 



the old man had broken his leg in much the same 
way, and the neighbours had treated it in the real old 
Eskimo style They propped the man on a rough 
wooden bedstead, and buried the broken limb UDdet 
a pile of sods 1 

I gathered that the victim of this primitive method 
of setting a limb was very impatient : however that 
may be, the treatment was a fieulure, for the bone 
set crooked and the old man goes with a limp. So 
young JeAy came to hospital. His drivers, two 
fine young fellows, brought him along at a splendid 

There is no one more unselfish than an Eskimo 
bent on an errand of mercy. The dogs had enough 
to do to pull Jerry, so the drivers walked or ran to 
lighten the load and make the pace the feister. 
They only rode down the hill £rom Ittipleisoak 
(The Big Neck), where the track crosses the ridge 
that leads out to Cape Mugford, and on some smooth 
stretches on the ice towards Okak where the seal- 
fetchers had worn a glassy path: for the most of 
the way they trotted, with that high-stepping action 
of their short leg& that is so characteristic of the 
Eskimos — and which, I verily believe, would bring 
them in ahead of the field in a Marathon race. 
When the sledge turned into our bay the people 
shouted *'Amak" (a woman), because there was a 
padded figure sitting on the sledge, with the two 
men running beside. None but a woman— <nr a 
Kablun&k — ^would sit on the sledge so padded, and 
the dogs were the people's dogs. But when the 
party came a little nearer their delight at the pros- 
pect of a visit from a Hebron fftmily turned to 

alarm. '* Amaulungitok " (it is not a woman), they 



said. *<Ai-ai, kappd, it is a man: he sits still: he 
must be kamiimajok " (a sick one). 

Off they ran to help the sledge over the 
hunmioeks, and to make things as easy as possible 
for the poor fellow who sat there, anxious and weary » 
wedged tightly between two planks lashed on the 
sledge. This was in January, the coldest part of 
the winter. 

As I helped the people to carry the sledge bodily 
into the hospital I asked young Jerry, *' Are you very 

** No," said he, simply. ** I am wrapped in a 
reindeer skin — but the jolting, ai-ai, it has hurt my 


Another that I shall not easily forget was a man 
from Nain, who had even a worse experience than 
young Jerry. He made the journey of ninety miles 
without a stop, suffering incessant agony from a 
huge abscess, grey with pain, but urging his drivers 
on and cm. He set out on a fine morhing, but the 
second day was stormy, no day for travelling at all. 
The poor fellow could not bear to wait. *^ On, on," 
he said, and the drivers, plucky feUows, never 
stopped to camp, but plodded on through the night 
and all through the blustering snowstorm of the 
second day. It means something to trudge ninety 
miles without a rest, and with never a warm bite or 
sup — ^no food, in fact, but dried fish and frozen 
seal meat. Late at night they reached Okak, when 
all the village was in bed and no one had any 
thought of travellers; and I opened the door to 
their knocking, and saw the two travel-worn, snow- 
powdered figures bearing the sick man between 




Another face that pushes its way to the firont 
of my memory is that of little Kettma, a brisk little 
housewife from Nain, who came as a passenger on 
her husband's sledge to have treatment for her eye& 
There she sat in her bed in the ward, with both eyes 
bandaged over; singing in her dear, sweet voice, 
and improvising an accompaniment on the guitar. 
As we went about our work we could hear the 
twankle-twankle of the strings and the quaint sound 
of her singing, hour after hour, tune after tune, as the 
happy little woman made light of her passing darkness. 

When people like these travellers from distant 
stations began to come into the hospital, we cast 
about in our minds for some way of making them 
fed at home. It would never do to pen them up 
in a European house, with hardly an Eskimo face 
to see: such treatment would soon have depressed 
them. No, they must have Eskimo company ; and 
so one of the first questions we asked them was, 
*' Have you any relatives here ? '' because the Eskimos 
are very keen on recognising even the most distant 
relationships, and would pay a great deal of attention 
to a fourth or fifth cousin from a hundred miles 
away. I call to mind one man who gave a strik- 
ingly naive answer to the usual question. He was 
a cripple from the north, who came on a dog-sledge, 
and answered ** Oh, yes " when I asked him whether 
he had any relatives in Okak. '' Illale " (certainly), 
he said, ^Hhere is so-and-so, and so-and-so — ** and 
he reeled off a string of names, most of them quite 
unfamiliar to us. '* Ahaila " (yes), I said, ** naukut 
inniksakark&t " (where have they their dwelling) ? 

<' lUuvervingme " (in the graveyard), said the 




One of the greatest problems that presented 
itself m those early days of Okak Hospital was the 
^ problem of food. 

So often the people had said ^' We are Eskimos — 
. we are different from Europeans/' that I felt certain 
, that there was a great truth in it. The missionaries 
have done the people a good service in persuading 
them to remain Eskimos in their food and clothing : 
there has been no attempt to force European ways 
upon them ; and I am convinced of the wisdom of 
this attitude because I have seen how the natives 
degenerate when they take to European food. They 
lose their natural coating of fat to a great extent, 
and need more clothing to withstand the cold ; they 
become less robust, less able to endure fatigue, and 
their children are puny. 

Perhaps it is their great tendency to imitate that 
explains why, at the more southern of the stations, 
where English-speaking settlers live among the 
people at their vUlages, the Eskimos are not so fine 
physically as those hving in the north. Whatever 
the reason, the fact remains: and so I tackled the 
feeding problem. When a sick man came to hospital 
I told his friends '' You may bring Eskimo foods for 
him," and they hailed the suggestion with delight. 
I found them a little shy, at first, of letting me know 
what Eskimo foods really were. I knew from hearsay 
that seal meat and codfish are the staple things ; and 
for a whUe the sick folks were supplied with those : 
but presently friends began quietly to bring other 
things — ^Eskimo dainties, I might call them. 

I went into a ward one day, and found a woman 

sitting up in bed sucking and chewing at a pile of 

raw fish-heads — ^which she hastily set aside when she 



saw me. Presently she took them up again* and 
fell to with the remark, uttered with a shy smile, 
** Mammadlarput ukkoa (these taste very good)." 

Another had a lot of what looked like dried dates, 
threaded on a string. This curious collection looked 
very like a necklace, and she kept it by her bedside, 
and picked one of the objects off to chew whenever 
the fimcy seized her. They puzzled me for a time, 
until Juliana (who had made my skin clothes, and 
had now become our first Eskimo nurse) enlightmed 
me. '* These are trout-stomachs, dried in the op^i 
air *'— a real Eskimo tit-bit. 

I might make a long list of the foods the people 
brought — seal meat raw, dried, boiled, fried, and even 
made into a stew with flour and giving forth a most 
appetising smell ; the flesh of reindeer, foxes, bears, 
hues, sea-birds of all sorts ; eggs of gulls, sea-pigeons 
and ptarmigan, the gull's eggs especially being some- 
times in a half-hatched state, with great, awfiil- 
looking eyes inside them ; trout and cod and salmon ; 
the boiled skin of the white whale and the walrus ; 
raw reindeer lips and ears — ^these are only some of 
the peculiarly Eskimo dishes that passed before our 
eyes; to say nothing of att^npts at European 
cookery, such as home-baked bread, sometimes grey 
and sodden, sometimes light and wholesome, so that 
we wondered how Eskimo hands and Eskimo stoves 
could bake so well ; roasted dough, as hard as bricks, 
a concoction of flour and water baked on the top of 
a tiny iron stove ; and even, on festal occasions, dough 
with currants. 

The list might be longer: as a matter of fact, 

about the only food the people did not bring to 

hospital was their great delicacy — rotten seal-flippas I 



I made the acquaintance of this remarkable item on 
the Eskimo menu when I was visiting in one of the 
houses on the hill. The people were grouped round 
a wooden tub which contained a pile of grey and 
slimy somethings ; the smell that arose from the tub 
was subtle and evil. 

« What have you got ? '' I asked them ; and the 
head man of the household answered with the 
Eskimo word for " rotten/' 

He held a flipper up for me to see, and shook his 
head with a smile as he said ^' You could not eat that ; 
it would make you ill/' 

** Ahaila," said another man in the circle, ** only 
strong people can eat rotten flippers. No good for 
sick people. Illdle, but we like them, and they do 
us good, but the people in the south have forgotten 
how to eat rotten flippers, and their stomachs have 
grown too weak. Mammadlarpulle (but they taste 
good)." How long those flif^rs had been soaking 
in that tub I did not find out, but they were assuredly 

And the man spoke a truth; the northern 
Eskimos are far more primitive in their food than 
are the southerners; and yet, all along the coast, 
they still keep to the staple diet of raw meat that 
earned for them in olden times the epithet ^* Eskimo 
—eater of raw flesh " which, as the story goes, the 
Indians hurled at them in derision. And without a 
doubt the raw foods suit their peculiar constitution 
the best. 

I found that the people refuse food so long as 

they feel acutely ill : their one cry is <^ Immilanga, 

immilanga (water, water)." As a consequence they 

waste away at an extraordinary rate; and after a 



few days of serious illness the qu<mdam plump and 
ruddy Eskimo is gaunt and haggard, with bony face 
and wrinkled skin ; he seems to have grown old all 
of a sudden. But with the beginning of con- 
valescence the feeding begins. So soon as the 
invalid loses his pains and his feeling of misery his 
appetite returns, and he devours immcjise quantities 
of meat and fish, washing them down with copious 
draughts of water. This &ttening process is even 
more wonderful to watch than the wasting: the 
hollow cheeks fill out, wrinkles disappear, limbs grow 
round and plump again, and the face locks younger 
day by day. All sorts of food are welcome, but 
without a doubt the native foods are the foods that 
work the miracle. I have seen the people sitting up 
in bed, munching strip after strip of tough dried 
codfish and leathery nipko (dried reindeer meat), and 
dipping the strips between the bites into a cup of 
cod-liver oil kept handy for the purpose. I suppose 
the oil moistened the meat ; at any rate it gave it a 
proper Eskimo flavour — ^but it must be proper 
Eskimo oil. I thought to save trouble by getting a 
gallon of the real thing from the oil yard ; but no, 
the sick folks wanted it fresh and home made, and I 
besought their friends to bring them some. It came, 
the crude article, brown and nauseous, the result of 
frying Uvers over the stove in the famUy frying-pan ; 
and it was like honey to their palate. They dipped 
and chewed, and sucked and chewed and dipped 
again, and said <*Piovok'' (it is good), <*Anan&k" 
(splendid). And I wondered, as I watched them 
eat, whether it was that same all-useful frying-pan 
that gave the subtle and indescribable flavour to all 
home-made Eskimo foods, a flavour that the people 


seemed to miss in the native cookery done in our 
hospital kitchen I 

But, aftar all, the raw foods suit them best, and 
they know it. I went into one of the huts during 
my first week in Okak, to see a young woman who 
was just recovering from a serious illness. The spec- 
tacle that greeted me when I opened the door was 
enough to alarm the bravest: there sat the woman 
on her bed, a gaunt and white-faced spectre, with 
her breast bare, and blood dripping from her mouth. 
I thought some dire catastrophe had happened. 
** Whatever is the matter ? " I said. For a moment 
she was silent: she was shy: then she said <'My 
husband has brought me home akkigivik (a par- 
tridge)," and she lifted her hands to her mouth again, 
and tore with gusto at the raw, warm flesh of the bird. 

When once their shyness was overcome there was 
no difficulty about feeding; some native food or 
other was dways in season, and people were always 
willing to bring a share of what they had. 

There was genuine sacrifice— sacrifice, I mean, 

with the right motive behind it — in those gifts of 

meat Men used to come with dishes and pots, 

containing lumps of raw flesh or samples of native 

cookery, and hand them over with a shy smile and a 

laconic ''for the sick folks." And, incidentally, it 

was over a matter of food that my friend Paulus 

showed me that the people had reaUy grasped the 

meaning of those bedsteads that had puzzled Veronica. 

He came one day dangling a leg of reindeer 

meat, and handed it to me with a little speech. ** I 

know,'' he said, ''that nipko is very good for the 

sick folks. They like it, and it gives them nukke 

(sinews). Take this meat, and have it made into 



nipko. No, I wiD not take it home, because if I do 
the meat will be eaten up. Keep it here, and have 
it dried; then you will have some good nipko for 
next winter, to give to the sick people if there are 

nations in their disr^^ard of vegetable foods? I 

sometimes saw them getting young willow shoots 

and one or two other little bits of green, and eatuig 

them as a reli^ to their meat; but they make 

absolutely no attempt to till what soil there is, and 

they do not even mike the most of the plants that 

grow. During the short weeks of summer the 

vegetation springs up in a perfectly marvellous 

manner, I was astonished at the profosion and 

variety of the wild plants and flowers that cover the 

hillsides. Surely among this wild scramble of plant 

life there must be some things that are good to eat ! 

I know that there are plenty of dandelion leaves, 

and I have tasted worse things in my time, but the 

people never touch them. It was a marvel to me 

how the Eskimos managed to keep free from scurvy, 

eating so little green food ; but the settlers on the 

coast say that seal meat does instead of vegetables, 

presumably because there are similar salts in it, and 

so eaters o( seal meat are able to keep healthy. It 

is very likely true, for the Eskimos, whose main 

food it is, are practically free frt>m scurvy. We 

Europeans could never take to seal meat ; it looks 

very black and nasty, and has a queer, inky, fishy 

taste that goes against a fastidious palate; but the 

people only smile at our lack of appreciation of their 

greatest delicacy, and teU us ^ Mamadlarpok " (it 

tastes fine). 



I found plenty of mushrooms on the hillsides on 
the warm days of August, but the Eskimos would 
have none of them : in fact, they were hardly to be 
persuaded to gather them. To their minds there is 
something uncanny about mushrooms. *^ Aha/' they 
used to say, '^ the food of the Evil One — ^piungitut 

But though gardening is entirely foreign to the 
Eskimo nature, they do not entirely scorn the good 
things of the earth. 

The berries are a great boon, so much that after 
the failure of the berry crop in 1904 — because a 
plague of mice had eaten the young shoots in the 
springtime — there was an epidemic of ill -health 
among the people. In most years the scrubby 
bushes that crawl upon the ground are loaded with 
succulent berries — a truly marvellous provision — and 
the people gather them not only by handfuls and 
bucketfuls, but by barrelfuls. In October, when 
the ground was idready becoming powdered with 
snow and frost, and there was ice upon the pools 
among the moss and on the stones that strew the 
beach, I have seen the Eskimo women putting their 
barrels on tall rocks, with heavy stones upon the lid, 
or slinging them over branches of trees, and I have 
asked them ^ Why ? " 

"Soon freeze," they answer, "high up— not get 
covered with snow — good all the winter"; and I 
saw that there is a certain amount of provident 
laying up for the future in the Eskimo life. 

I was glad to see it, for I had thought at first 

that these hunters, who go out after the seals, and feast 

high while there is plenty, would have no other idea 

than to live literally from hand to mouth. But I 



see that where Nature has taught them the need, 
they lay up store. They dry reindeer meat after 
Easter» and keep it for the weeks when the ice is 
cracking and seals are hard to find ; they dry codfish 
in the smnmer, simply hanyng it in the open air 
unsalted, and use it for food between the going of 
the codfish and the coming of the seals in autumn ; 
th^ store up the berries for the winter. TVith 
these exceptions, which are long-established customs, 
the Eskimos are not a thrifty folk. Even the 
promise of a ten per cent, interest on their savings 
does not make these hunters see the value of a bank 
balance: they like to handle the worth of their 
earnings at once, and in solid substance. 



LizETTA — ^' Broken ** — ^Natiyb Doctors — Superstitions 

MY stoiy of the starting of the hospital would 
be sadly incomplete if I did not bring in the 
name of Lizetta. 

She is a bright, brisk little Eskimo mother, who 
gives one about as good an idea of an Eskimo house- 
wife as can be got. 

She spends the day in working at the seals that 

her husband brings home, and in making boots and 

clothing from the skins; and she has to be pretty 

busy if she is to keep the hard-working husband and 

the active little brood of chubby toddlers properly 

clad. Scraping skins, cutting out, chewing leather 

to soften it, stitching and mending — these are her 

household duties ; and besides them there are only the 

floor-scrubbing, and the wood-chopping for the stove, 

to make any real demand on her time. She wastes 

no time over cooking — ^food tastes ever so much 

better raw, she says: she is not hampered in the 

morning by having the beds to make — they need no 

making ; just roll up the reindeer skin and spread 

the coloured counterpane, and there you are I 

Like other Eskimo mothers, she leaves the children 

a great deal to themselves, and trusts them to 

grow up strong and hardy. But unfortunately, 

though in the way of caring for them she does what 

other Eskimo mothers do, keeping them well-fed and 

well-clothed, the little folks in Lizetta's house are 



puny, and so it came about that Lizetta was cme of 
the hospital's most frequent visitors. Bright little 
soul, in spite of her troubles she was always cheery, 
and used to keep the people in the waiting-room in a 
continual state of merriment with her odd quips and 
her lively descriptions of anything that was happen- 
ing. She and her little troop were blessed with an 
extra share of good lodes, and made up in spirit for 
what they lacked in bodily vigour ; in fact, a jollier 
family you could hardly imagine, and it is no wonder 
that we were all fond of them« This little mother 
came running one day to pant out the startling news 
that little Gustaf had ** ffdlen and broken his back.'' 
I ran with all haste to the hut, with my mind full of 
dismal visions of the brightest of our little school- 
boys moaning on a hard bed of reindeer skins, help- 
less and crippled But no, little Gustaf was sitti^ 
on the doorstep, apparently as lively as a cricket 
He had fidlen and bruised his back; the pain had 
made him cry ; and his mother had used the correct 
word under tke circumstances to convey the informa- 
tion that his back was painfuL ** Broken " seemed a 
strong expressicm: it was the same word that she 
would have used in talking of a box smashed up for 
firewood; and I thought it was the cry of " Wolf" 
when there was no w(d£ One leams to understand 
these things ; it was no wilful exaggeration, but just 
an example of the Eskimo way of expressing things. 
If an Eskimo has pain in any part of his body, 
that part is, to his way of thinking, broken. And 
similarly, if a man has a bad cough, his lungs are 
broken, and so on. The woman who came from the 
frozen snow-huts at Killinek to live in her brother's 

wooden house at Okak, and who found the warmth 




more than she could endure, used just the same 
expression when she said <' My life is broken." This 
is the idea upon which the native doctors work : 
something is broken, and must be mended. 

In every village there are several of these 
** doctors/' men and women who by some means or 
other have gained a reputation for unusual skill in 
dealing with sickness. Of medicines they hav^ very 
few. They stew the twigs diS the rosemary, and 
make a sort of tea : this is their panacea, and as it 
causes sweating perhaps it has its value. The brain 
of the codfish is another of their native medicines ; 
and they have a great fondness for giving the raw 
liver of the seal to sick people. Many a time have I 
found them munching the little red cubes into which 
they like it chopped. 

I found this little habit out because I used to 
wonder why seal's liver was so difficult to get from the 
people. It was the only part of the fishy •flavoured 
seal that we could eat with any degree of enjoyment, 
and during the winter it was often the only form of 
fresh meat-food that we could obtain ; but in spite of 
the good price that we offered only a very few livers 
came our way. 

Juliana, our first Eskimo hospital nurse, explained 
the mystery in a few words: "Tingo (liver) very 
good for sick people." 

The fact is that the people set great store by it as 
a health-giving food, and there are generally feeble 
and ailing ones wanting all the liver they can get : 
also, by the way, it is a great tit-bit, so that we con- 
sidered ourselves rather fortunate to get any at all. 

The native " doctor " sets very Kttle store by his 

medicines; there is '< mending" to be done, and 

289 T 


accordingly he carries out his treatment by means of 
lengthy and mysterious manipulations. The Eskimos 
have a general idea of the constitution of the body ; 
their constant work upon the seals gives them that ; 
they know whereabouts the various organs are, but 
of the marvellous way in which those organs work 
together in the bodily economy they have no idea. 
The wonders of physiology are beyond the grasp of 
their child minds ; they do not puzzle their heads 
over what they do not understand: *^ Taimaipok " 
(it is so), they say, and are content. 

The native rubbers are rather shy of letting 
Europeans see them at their work, but this is m^ely 
the natural shyness of letting others see them at their 
peculiarly Eskimo habits. I have been a privileged, 
and sometimes unexpected, spectator a time or two, 
and found the manipulator surrounded by a crowd of 
men, all eager to see '^ how it is done." 

There was a very famous rubber in Okak during 
my time, a weird old fellow, respectable and hard- 
working enough, rather primitive in his habits, but 
possessed of a deformity of the roof of his mouth 
which gave his speech an almost un-understandable 

I dare say his peculiarity was something of an 

asset, for he got frequent employment as a '' mender '' 

of ^'broken" backs and lame joints. There is no 

doubt that the nibbing was good for many things, 

but I think that the native doctors owe some of their 

popularity to the old Eskimo conservatism. I have 

known people come to hospital with such a tale as 

this: *^I broke my back yesterday at my work. 

Old Jakko mended it last night, but it is no better I *' 

The work of the native doctors is an innocent 



sort of thing ; they profess no witchcraft or sorcery 
or magic ; all that sort of thing has passed away as 
the other relics of heathenism pass, and whether it be 
in sickness or in health, the Eskimos are a Christian 

The idea that parts of the body are broken, as an 
explanation of various pains, led to some curious 

The Eskimos did not understand that one disease 
could produce aches and pains in different parts 
of the body; and it was quite a common ex- 
perience for persons suffering from influenza — that 
bane of Labrador — to come and say, *^ My head is 
broken, and my back, and my bones, and my lungs ; 
I am always coughing, and my throat, how it hurts," 
and then to ask for head-medicine and back-medicine 
and bcme-medicine and cough-medicine and throat- 
medicine, ticking the items off oo their fingers in 
business-like style. 

Usually they asked for ** siumik " (medicine), their 
favourite way of putting it ; but when they had a 
string of medicines to recite it was generally *' illinga- 
jomik " that they wanted — ^that which belongs to this, 
that, or the other pain. It was necessary to explain 
that the bottle contained something good for (or 
belonging to) all these pains; and then the person 
would look at the bottle, and eye me, and nod, and 
say '' Ha," and walk off with a puzzled sort of air, as 
if he wondered how the different medicines in the 
bottle would know where to go after they were 
swallowed I 

It was quite in keeping with their childlike ideas, 
and their lack of appreciation of the marvellous com- 
plexity of the human body, that they should, some 



of them, think that a medicine good for one thing 
must be equally good for another. A man came in 
one day, and asked for some of '^ the red-coloured 

I asked him, *' What is the matter with you ? " 

He simply said, ** Kujanna (never mind), I want 
some of the red medicine." 

'^ No," I said, ^* not unless I am sure that it is the 
sort you need : tell me what ails you." 

** I have sprained my shoulder," he said. 

^'Then the red medicine that you are fa^llr ing 
about will not be of any use to you: it is not 
illingajomik for sprained shoulders." 

** Atsuk," he went on, ^' my mate outside says that 
he thinks that red medicine must be the quickest 
kind, for it mended his pain. Give me the r^ sort." 

Our old friend Maria voiced another side of 
the native simplicity when she came shuffling in 
one day, bursting with the dignity of her new 
position. Poor old soul, she had been married only 
a few days before to a worthy old fellow who was 
coming to the end of his days, and who had long 
been casting about for a wife to share his solitude. 
Maria was concerned for the old man. ''I want 
knee-medicine," she said, '^knee-medicine for the 
old man." 

Visions of the poor old feUow tumbling over 
the stones outside his door and hurting his knees 
came into my mind. 

** How did he hurt his knees ? " I asked her. 

** He has not hurt his knees at alL" 

More visions, this time of a poor old man 

crippled with rheumatism. 

*^ Is the medicine for the pains in his knees ? " 



'* No, he has no pains in his knees." 

Now all this, long-winded though it may sound, 
is a perfectly characteristic interview; it gives a 
thoroughly true picture of the deliberation of an 
Eskimo statement* 

^'For what purpose does the old man want 

*^ Issumamnik " (my own idea), she said, " the 
poor old man has such feeble knees; they totter 
and shake when he gets out of bed in the morning, 
and when he gets up to walk about. I want some 
good knee-medicine to cure that." 

Pathos and humour tumble over one another's 
heels when one comes to deal with Eskimo requests, 
and of course a good deal of the humour depended 
on one's early struggles with the language. 

When I handed a person two pills, and tried 
to say ''Take one pill to^ay, and the other to- 
morrow,*' it struck me as very ludicrous to find, 
after a hot chase through the pages of the grammar 
book, that the proper way to put it was ''Take 
that pill to-day, and its wife to-morrow." While 
I was up in the attic with the two carpenters, I 
was startled to hear shrieks of immoderate laughter 
pealing from downstairs. Presently our English 
hospital nurse, a beginner at the language, came 
up and said, "Sarah wants to see you, but when 
I tell her to come up here she only laughs." 

When I got down to the porch Sarah went 
off into more fits of laughter. " Ai-ai, uttilerk^t ? " 
(have you come back), she said. " Una " (that one) 
pointing to the nurse — " told me that you had gone 
to heaven, and I might go there if I wanted to 
speak to you." It was just an error of pronunciation. 


*< kiUangme " (in heaven) instead of *' koUane " (in the 
attic) ; but for weeks and weeks Sarah chewed that 
joke» and used to burst out laughing as soon as 
she saw me. 

Work among the Eskimos was, to me, a very 
fascinating tiling. It is not all easy — nay, it can 
be trying and discouraging often enough. There 
is the touch of fatalism to combat ; it is deep-rooted 
in the Eskimo nature. When disaster overtakes 
a man, he simply says *^ Ajomarmat '' (it cannot be 
helped); and he generally says it without any re- 
sentment. But sanitary reforms caused a raising 
of eyebrows. *^ No," said the people, '* that is not 
the way we do: our fathers never did that: it is 
not a custom of the people.'' 

Impatience is another hindrance. The people 
willingly take to reforms of which they can see the 
immediate benefit; but a teacher must be voy 
patient and unwearjringly persistent if he wishes 
them to adopt habits of which tiie benefit is mott 
remote. Impatience and fatalism go hand in hand : 
the Eskimos will stick to their own old ways unless 
they can be made to see that other ways are 
better ; and unless the innovations are plainly better 
— ^to Eskimo eyes — ^they take to them ¥rithout 

I got many a glimpse of native impatience in 
the hospital out-patients' room ; even the medicines, 
they thought, must work quickly. 

The young fellow with the paralysed leg, who 

came to have the electric battery applied, got tired 

of it after a few. mornings, and stayed away. When 

we had him fetched he said, ** Tukkekang^lak (there 

is no sense in it) ; I have had it several times, and 



my leg is still lame. Why cannot it cure me at 
once ? " But I found the Eskimos open to reason ; 
they would listen gravely and seriously to little 
lectures on elementary anatomy ; under proper super- 
vision they were persuaded to try long courses of 
treatment in the hope of eventual cure — though 
I expect that when they got away to their summer 
tents or their sealing quarters they forgot again. 

There are not many traces of superstition stiU 
lingering; but in my goings in and out I found a 
few. I remember how frightened one young man 
became because he had caught a fox with a peculiar 
mark upon it : ''I shall die soon/' he said. 

There are a few little beliefs connected with occur- 
rences in the hunt, but they are not often mentioned 
in these days ; the fears and fSancies of heathen times 
have passed away. 

But I found the people afraid of the presence of 
death: not of death itself — that they meet with 
equanimity; but they are timid to be left with a 
dying person, and for this reason, if for no other, a 
deathbed is always surrounded by a crowd of friends. 
They have the curious custom of pulling down a 
bedstead on which a person has died, and building it 
up in another part of the house ; and they sometimes 
go to the extreme of dismantling the whole hut, and 
building it again on another site. There seems to be 
nothing but superstition to account for these customs, 
for I have seen a man pull his hut down and build it 
up from the same material elsewhere, while somebody 
else put up a new hut on the discarded site. Super- 
stition it seems to be, and as such it clings to the 
Eskimo nature ; but I could not help thinking that, 

after all, it has a certain sanitary value. '^ Under 



the bed *' is a great place for poking all the useless 
lumber of an Eskimo household, and the shifting 
of a bed into another comer effectively clears the 
somewhat unsavoury accumulation. 

''Just big children" said my firiend the mis- 
sionary; and these fears and superstitions are just 
signs of the child mind. If you go through a village 
in the night, you will see a tiny light glimmering in 
many of the houses. The people are fast asleep, but 
they like to keep a light burning ; like children, they 
are timid in the darkness. But in many a household 
the fear has passed away. When night has fallen, 
and the evening prayers have been said, the Eskimo 
housewife puts out tiie lamp and the family settles to 
sleep in peace. 



Eskimo Cousins— VisiriNo — Out with the Motor Boat 

I HAD a rather amusing adventure with the ever- 
cheerful Lizetta during my first winter at Okak. 
There was an epidemic of infectious disease arising in 
one or two of the huts, and I knew enough of the 
companionable nature of the Eskimos to fear that 
the sickness might spread from house to house by 
reason of much visiting ; so I posted a notice on the 
hospital door to say that there must be no visiting of 
the people sick with this disease. ** PuUarviksakar- 
ungnaipok t&pkonunga *' — ^read the notice. 

This new departure met with a mixed reception. 

Partly it was hostile. ^^ That is silly ; there is no 
sense in it, We Eskimos always visit wherever we 
like ; it is the custom of the people." 

Partly it was fatalistic, with that misunderstanding 
sort of fatalism that one might expect from the 
wilder spirits among the people. ** If God's will is so, 
the siclmess wiU spread in spite of anything that you 
can do : and if God's vriU is that we should not be 
sick, why may we not visit ? " ** Ah," I told them, 
'' God is teaching men nowadays to take good care : 
He expects us all to obey the laws of health. Cer- 
tainly He gives us our food, every one of us, but He 
gives us strength to earn our food, and hands to put 
it into our mouths.'' 

And partly it was met by a thoughtful request. 

The solemn elders of the village came as a deputation. 



'* We agree,'* they said, '< that the people ought not 
to visit those sick with this catching sickness, and 
the people wiU obey your words; but what about 
relatives? May they not visit their sick ones, the 
sick ones of their own family, and brmg them food 
and make them happy?" ''It is reasonable," I 
answered ; ** an exception shall be made for relatives 
who want to care for their sick ones: such people 
may visit." The solemn deputation nodded their 
heads, .and withdrew to convey the decision to the 
village. After that, whatever bedside I visited, 
whatever house I entered, there I almost certainly 
found Lizetta. 

" You ought not to be visiting here," I told her. 

'* Oukagle (but no), you are wrong," said Lizetta, 
taking up her defence with some warmth, ^* oukagle, 
this is my kattangutiarsuk (little cousin)." Upon my 
word, the whole village seemed to be Lizetta's cousin 1 
** lUale (but certainly) ; her mother married the cousin 
of my mother " — that was enough : it meant a proper 

It was only that the keen-witted little woman had 

betiiought herself of her numberless relationships, and 

was anxious to help in her own bright way ; for when 

I thought the matter over, I could not fiiil to see 

that most of the Eskimos must be related in some 

way or other. They are only a small nation ; not 

many more than a thousand, all told ; and for years 

they have gone on, marrying and intermarrying, 

until it is hard to find a family that cannot claim 

kinship of a sort with the greater part of their 

village. The Eskimos have little other prospect 

than to go on in the same way, marrjring their own 

distant relatives, and I think that this is against their 



chances of increase ; and so I urged them, through 
the pages of their little newspaper (I) to widen their 
circle by choosing wives from other villages, instead 
of linking the families of each village closer and 
closer to each other. This close relationship is one 
of their drawbacks ; and yet, with all their obstacles 
and all their drawbacks, they remain the masters of 
the frightful difficulties that beset their life ; they are 
the real hunters of the Labrador. 

Their endurance of cold and fatigue is far greater 
than their power of withstanding bodily illness. 
Accidents they can face ; their powers of repair after 
injuries are truly marvellous ; but disease is another 
thing. Their resisting power is low, and they are 
soon prostrate ; and this, I suppose, is the way with 
all the nature peoples. And yet their pluck is very 
great. As long as an Eskimo feels really iU, or has 
severe bodily pain, he looks, and is, very ill indeed ; 
but when the actual feeling of pain or distress is 
gone, he thinks that he is well again. It is partly 
sheer pluck, partly native impatience. The practical 
outcome is that an Eskimo invalid takes less care of 
himself than a more civilised person would do. He 
takes no notice of the onset of disease, but goes on 
with his work untU, from pain or weakness, he can 
work no more. And he takes no notice of con- 
valescence; he wants to be up and out and at his 
hunting before he can properly stand on his feet. I 
once went into a hut to see a young man who had in- 
flammation of the lungs. He was very ill indeed, and 
there was some doubt about his living through it ; his 
friends sat watching him -with great anxiety. Next 
day I foimd the hut empty 1 "Ah,** thought I, " his 
friends have moved him to another house ; " they have 



a great trick of doing that ; so I set off to investigate. 
But the man was not in the village, and I was puzzled 
until a feeble hail from across the water set me on 
the right track. There was the sick man, alone in a 
little boat, pulling manfully at the oars, and coughing 
as he pylled. <<1 am all right now," he shouted, 
** yesterday I was very ill ; I had much pain. Now 
I am better; I have only got a cough." He had 
been to clear his trout net ! 

There is plenty of incident in a doctor^s daily 
round in Labrador, though it be only in the mild 
form of peeps at typical Eskimo life, or small ad- 
vttitures such as foils down great snow-pits or even 
a plunge through the roof of a buried hut or a sudden 
and pi^ul descent into a sort of cave full of vicious 
sledge«dogs which was the householder's buried snow 
porch. But visits are not always tame ; they can be 
well spiced with adventure, even on a summer's day. 

I remember as if it were yesterday the quaint, 

squat figure that came trotting along the beach 

round the head of the bay ; before she reached me 

she had begun to deliver her message. ^' Come," she 

said, ** come, tuavigit (be quick), my sister — ^very ill 

— quick." She pointed towards a white dot on the 

rocks at the mouth of the bay. ** Tuppivut-una " 

(that is our tent), she went on ; *^ umiakark^t ? " (have 

you a boat). I had a boat, a rare little tub, but there 

was nobody to help with the rowing. *' Un#t," said 

Augusta, and in a few minutes she and I were taking 

turns at the rowing, for an Eskimo woman is brought 

up to take her share of the work in a boat, and 

besides, we could not spare the time to trudge those 

nine miles ovtt the pebbly beach. The tide was on 

the ebb, and we got across in splendid time. Many 



a merry haU did we get from the fishing boats as 
they passed us on their way home, for all the village 
had been a-fishing. It was a rare reward at tiie end 
of that long pull to kneel on the soft moss beside 
the rude couch of reindeer skins, and hear the whis- 
pered ^^Nakomdk" from poor tired suffering lips: 
life is wonderfiilly well worth living at moments 
like that. 

By the time I was ready to start back the tide 
had turned, and with it had come the wind. The 
little ripples on the bay were all crested with white, 
but it was a home wind and a home tide, and I set 
out on my solitary journey without any misgivings. 
But half-an-hour later I was wishing I had walked 
round. My tub of a boat was bouncing about like a 
cork, with great waves chasing after it, and I was 
struggling to get the oars into the water and keep in 
front of the sea. If I got broadside on I was done 
for, for the sea was high enough to swamp the boat 
in an instant ; and with the water only two or three 
degrees above freezing-point a two miles' swim was 
an utter impossibility. So I stuck to the oars till 
my fingers were numb, silently praying all the while 
for strength to win through. But the biting spray 
takes all the nerve out of an Englishman's fingers, 
and my grip began to loosen ; and more than once 
the boat turned enough to diip a heavy smack from 
one of the chasing waves. There was a mighty 
bump, and I tumbled backward off my seat. A 
rough hand seized my arm as I fell, and I found 
myself scrambling into Paulus's boat, with Paulus's 
roimd face beaming at me from under a mop of 
sodden hair. He had the tiller in an iron grasp, and 

with one hand he was hitching the painter of my 



Kttle bovt to a hook. Happily he was the owner of 
a fine hig trap-boat, but he had his anxious mom^its 
as he wori^ed her round. There came an almost 
imperceptible lull — a rather smaller wave; Faulus 
flung his weight on the tiller, and ducked as the 
boom banged over — and we were racing homewards, 
with the nose of the boat roaring through the water. 
We were all right now, and Paulus grinned as he 
did his characteristic shake to get the wet hair out of 
his eyes. ^ Very nearly bad job," said he ; and that 
was the only refference I ever knew Paulus make to 
the fiut that he had saved my life. 

Haj^y the need for such adventures no longer 
exists, since in the summer of 1908 a fine motor boat 
came to Okak Hospital as a present firom generous- 
hearted Mends. This was a great help: it meant 
that the people could easily be visited at their 
scattered fishing camps during the busy fishing 
season, when ordinarily they are away from the 
Mission station for days or weeks at a time ; and so, 
not only would they be under better supervision, but 
the usefulness of the hospital to them would be 
vastly increased. And since the sununer of 1908 
the ^diite motor boat. The Northern Star, has 
puffed busily to and firo. 

I had the pleasure of a trial trip in her before I 
left the coast, and, as if to give me a proper apprecia- 
tion of the boat's seaworthiness, the elements com- 
bined in the worst storm of the season. We made 
quite a large party ; myself and wife, my successor 
and his wife, the English hospital nurse, Veronica 
the kitchen-girl, and Jerry. We took Jeny the 
organist because he happened to be at home, and 
because he knows every rock within miles of Okak ; 


and partly because of his huge delight at meeting a 
" pujoUarsuk '* (little steamer) at such close quarters. 
'* Tattamnarmdk/' he muttered, as he scrutinised 
the engine — which he for want of a better word, 
called " erchavingit " (the ship's bowels) — "tattam- 
narmdk " (how marvellous). 

Jerry was pilot, and, like a true Eskimo, he took 
his duties seriously: however much he may have 
wanted to see the working of the engine, he said no 
more, but climbed out to the bows and pointed out 
the way. We ran the ten miles to Uivak, and had a 
good look at his black, rocky sides ; and I thought of 
the time when I saw him standing in the dark 
winter water, and when Johannes led the sledges 
over the top : but Jerry tapped me on the shoulder 
and said — " We go home now : bad storm very soon." 

Round we steered, and nosed into the rising sea. 

The boat travelled splendidly, and did good work 

agamst the wind ; but soon the waves were crashing 

over the roof of the cabin, and Jerry, experienced 

man, began to be alarmed. As long as we faced the 

sea it was not so bad, but to get to Okak we had to 

run five miles broadside on to the storm. We tried 

it for a short distance; but, though I believe the 

boat might have got through safely, it seemed 

useless to risk so valuable a thing — ^to say nothing of 

our lives— when an hour or two might bring cabn 

weather again. Jerry breathed a fervent ^'NakomSk " 

when he saw the boat siving round and head for 

shore: he and I were soaked to the skin, and the 

water was slopping over our boots as we stood in the 

bows, but that was no new thing for him; his 

** Nakomdk " was not for a prospect of warm feet and 

dry clothes, but for the turning of our backs on the 



tossing channel that we had tried to cross, and idiose 
treacheries he knew so much better than I. 

We dropped our anchor in a little rocky bay, out 
of the worst of the wind, and set ourselves to wait 
But the storm only grew worse ; it swung us round 
and round at the end of our chain until Jerry feared 
that the anchor would drag. Night fell with the 
wind still howling, so we made up our minds to a 
night in the boat, and foraged under the seats for 
eatables. We found some tins of meat and a bag of 
ship's biscuit, rather tough and unpalatable food for 
folks who were half seasick; however, we were 
thankful not to be starving, so we gnawed our 
supper like rats and settled for the night. There 
was not much sleep to be had, though we rolled 
from side to side, and counted sheep in our minds ; 
the ceaseless howling of the wind, and the constant 
shocks as the waves battered against our walls, 
would have kept most folks awake ; and Jeny, the 
only one of us who could, perhaps, have slept 
through the din, stood watchful and serious, leaning 
against the window of the engine room, with his 
eyes upon the anchor chain and the line of white 
breakers that marked the shore. Each time I turned 
to try a fresh position, there he stood; and in the 
grey of the morning, when I woke from a drowse, he 
was just as I had seen him last, silent and faithful, 
watching and waiting for the wind to drop. 

We got ashore during the morning in the little 

punt that we had with us, and varied the monotony 

by finding some water to drink. Then came faxeak- 

fast, a nameless mush of meat and biscuits and 

water, mixed in a meat-tin and warmed over a smoky 

fire among the stones ; but once again I found that 



hunger is the best sauce, and somehow I was not 
surprised at the way in which Jerty and Veronica 
smacked their lips over it. It was not until late in 
the afternoon that Jerry judged it safe to venture on 
the sea again, and then we ploughed along the 
troughs of huge waves, with the water flopping 
limply over us, and so reached Okak. 

'' Tikkikise ? " said Jerry's wife, big placid 
Sibilla, ** uigamerasugi — ai, ai " (I thought I was a 
widow) — ^and then the two of them laughed and 
trudged away home together. 

Writing about the motor-boat makes me think of 

Benjie is a small boy of five or six years, and the 
way he comes into the story is this. He was romp- 
ing on the jetty with some other boys, when he 
tumbled into the seven feet of water that we have 
at high tide. The others clambered down and fished 
him out, limp and half choked, and brought him to 

The child was soon fit to be out of doors, and we 

sent him home to his grandmother's hut, where he 

acted as general servant, wood-chopper, water-fetcher, 

fisherman, and what-not in the intervals of his play. 

Thereafter he seemed to be always hanging about 

the hospital steps, becoming strangely eager and 

restive at the least sign of our going out of doors : 

this turned out to be his odd way of showing his 

appreciation of the comforts of hospital — he had 

elected himself chief general helper on the motor 

boat 1 It was useless to talk to the boy ; he was as 

deaf as a board ; but he used to wait out there with 

dog-like devotion for some sign. A thumb jerked 

over one's shoulder meant oars to Benjie, and away 

805 u 


he would trot to fetch them, and then over the beach 
to haul the little punt inshore; and by the time I 
got to the water's edge he was in his place with the 
two oars in his baby hands, and a smile of utter con- 
tent on his fat, round face. Sometimes, when there 
was a breeze blowing, it seemed a shame to let the 
little fellow row; but once when I took the oars 
away, he cried so piteously that I had no choice but 
to sit in idleness in the stem and watch the lusty 
little arms tug away. 

He always *' helped " to get the anchor up, and 
then wanted to take his turn at the wheel; but I 
deprived him of this last honour after he had grazed 
the side of the buoy that marks our Okak reef, and 
had given me my one and only view of the jagged 
rocks within a few feet of our planks. 

Faithful little Benjie 1 His stolid face and gleam- 
ing eyes come to my mind every time I think of the 
Okak motor-boat, and so I have given him a place in 
my chronicle of the starting of a Mission hospital 
among the Eskimo hunters of Labrador. 



Eskimo Housed— Making Windows— -Stubborn Lsarnkrs — A 
Scrubbing-brush Episode — My Harmonium — ^A Concert 

DURING my years in Labrador I saw very 
little of the old snow-house dwellings. They 
have vanished, except in the neighbourhood of Killi- 
nek and some other parts of the north, and all that I 
saw of them was on my sledge journeys. But snow 
houses on sledge journeys are but poor imitations of 
the real thini;, with its ice-window and its carefully 
joinW protfoting waU «d porch, »d «peeUUy i^ 
luxurious size. Sledge drivers always misjudged my 
length, at least until they got used to me. They 
persisted in building snow houses to fit Eskimos, and 
I had usually several inches of spare 1^ to tuck away 
into some cramped and awkward position. Julius 
and Johannes got to know my measure, so to say, 
and used to build me a house in which I could at 
least stretch comfortably if I lay across the middle ; 
but, as I was about to say, in spite of their popularity 
as shelters on journeys^ snow houses as permanent 
winter dwellings are getting very scarce. 

At all the older villages the people have huts of 
wood or turf. I feel something like a war-horse with 
the scent of battle in its nostrils when I think of 
those old turf huts — ^iglos, the Eskimos call them. 
What unsavoury dens they were 1 How I thirsted 
to abolish them 1 Description is a poor thing when 

an Eskimo iglo is the sul^ect ; but try to imagine a 



thing that looks like a heap of turf or sods, with a 
battered tin pipe sticking out of the top, and a long, 
low tunnel leading up to one side, and you have a 
fairly good mental picture of the outside of an iglo. 
Inside there is a lining of smoke-blackened boughs 
and trunks of little trees, all shiny with grease ; a 
small allowance of light filters dimly in tlurou^^ a 
membrane of scales bowel stretched across a hole in 
the roof, and the door, hanging limp upon its seal- 
hide hinges, permits the only suggestion of air to 
waft sluggishly along the tunnel porch. But the 
smell I There is nothing like it : it is the rancid, 
fishy smell of stale seal*oiL It smites your nostrils 
when you go in, and the heat from the little iron 
stove combines with the smell to make the statfy 
atmosphere almost unbearable. Can the Eskimos be 
healthy in homes like that ? Is it any wonder that 
I pine to see such dens abolished ? 

But the Eskimos are progressing ; iglos are get- 
ting few and far between, and little wooden huts are 
cropping up like mushrooms. Long efforts have at 
last aroused ambition in the Eskimo mind. Your 
modem hunter wants a wooden house : it only costs 
a little trouble, and he knows that it is worth it. 
Some fine spring morning he calls his dogs together, 
and hies him to the woods. He builds a tiny snow 
hut for shelter, and lives on tough dried meat. He 
is after timber for a house, and from dawn to dusk 
he searches for the best of the poor stunted trees and 
chops them down. Then he builds a sort of scaffold^ 
and gets his wife to hdp him saw the planks. Many 
a time have I seen them at work with their big pit- 
saws : the man is top sawyer on the scaffold, while the 

woman stands below and does her share, and so they 


g 1l 
« IS 

a 1-3 



get planks for their home* Buildmg begins later on, 
for the seal-hunting and the cod-fishing are too 
important to be missed ; but, sooner or later, before 
the next winter b due the Eskimo gets busy* He 
lays a foundation of stones from the beach or the 
hillside, and builds his beams and joists upon it ; he 
works long hours, intent and serious, until he can 
proudly fling his tools down and say '' My house is 

Some men are too poor to spend precious days in 
cutting planks, or they have not dogs enough to haul 
timber from the woods away in the valleys of the 
mainland, and so, for them, the housing problem 
remains a problem. Some day, perhaps, there will 
be model houses for such men as these, either let at a 
small rent, or sold by instalments ; and so I fondly 
dream of a healthy home for every Eskimo — ^but the 
problem has its very practical side : who is to pay ? 
I must say candidly that a good proportion of the 
wooden houses that already exist are a real credit to 
their owners. In some of the best I have seen sofas 
and harmoniums, and even linoleum on the floor: 
but such houses are the homes of the mighty hunters, 
who keep a servant or two to help with the seal nets, 
and who are able to afford such little luxuries out of 
their earnings. 

The average Eskimo house is a square room, with 

rather cramped accommodation for everything that 

goes to make up the daily round. Just inside the 

door you may stumble over the carcases of a couple 

of plump seals, brought in to thaw; on the wall 

behind the stove a big oily sealskin is stretched on a 

frame to dry ; one comer harbours a little table, on 

which stands a stone lamp filled with nauseous seal- 



oil, or maybe the seal-oil lamp is banished, and a 
gaudy paraffin lamp from the store takes its place; 
various queer-looking objects, such as snow-shoes, 
harpoons, dogs* harness, whip, bladders for floats, 
slabs of dried meat, bundles of straw for basket- 
making, skin boots and clothing, strew the edges of 
the floor or hang upon the walls, and a big comer is 
curtained or partitioned off for a sleeping-place. 
There may even be room somewhere for a new-bom 
family of pups, brought in lest the other dogs should 
gobble them up when their mother was ofi^ guard ; 
and the children of the household are playing all over 
the place. 

Spare spaces on the walls are decorated with cards 
and pictures, or flowery-wall paper; bottles, tins, 
jars, and cheap ornaments stand upon tiny home- 
made shelves, and one or two alarm clocks are sure 
to be there, proclaiming their presence either by 
untimely and ear-splitting chimings or by the very 
loudness of their ticking. Anything will do to 
beautify an Eskimo house. One of the firms that 
supplied us with cocoa had the pleasing custom of 
enclosing a big coloured show-card in each of their 
packing-cases : these were a great prize for otir simple- 
minded neighbours, and so it comes about that 
various grimy little Eskimo huts on the Labrador 
coast are graced to this day by the startling an- 
nouncement that ^' So-and-so's cocoa is sold here " I 

I found that warmth was the most serious thing 

to be considered, for the Eskimos of these days have 

got used to fires and cannot do without them. A 

good many of them are even losing the sleek coating 

of fat that the northerners possess, and the stove 

takes the place of this natural overcoat ; but quite 



apart from their personal feelings they need a stove 
to thaw the seals, otherwise their work would be at 
a standstill I was chatting to some of them about 
the smallness of their houses. ^^Ah," they said, 
''we need them small to keep warm. We cannot 
manage to have more than one stove, for the woods 
are so far away ; and we must have warmth to thaw 
our seals." It is true: but some of the greater 
himters have solved the problem for themselves. I 
suppiose they got tired of seeing grease and blood 
and remnants of seals slopping about on their hard- 
earned linoleum, or perhaps they wanted more space 
for the periodic feasts and palavers that are held in 
^^ l>igg^i^ houses ; but, whatever the why and the 
wherefore, some of the men have built a lean-to 
against their house, or have partitioned off an end 
of their big room, and have backed the stove up 
against a hole in the wall. So they have a special 
little room for the seals, warmed by the back of the 
dwelling-room stove ; and when I found an improve- 
ment like that, springing from pure Eskimo in- 
genuity, I knew that it would soon be popular with 
the people, and down it went as part of my plan 
for those model dwellings I have in my mind. 

** Yes," thought I, ** warmth is a problem ; but the 
stuffy, evil-smelling atmosphere is another." In some 
of those iglos, in winter, with their long snow tunnels 
to keep the cold — ^and at the same time eJFectively 
keeping the fresh air — ^away from the door, I have 
had to gasp for breath. How can folks be healthy 
in this sort of air ? 

I am not writing of the characteristic Eskimo 

smell : that cannot be abolished. Every house has 

some degree of the same odour; dirty houses and 



dean, old houses and new, big houses and little, all 
have their share, and every Eskuno carries a hint 
of it about with him. It is the smell of seal-oil, 
of oil-sodden boots and harness, of lamps and cookoy, 
beds and clothes. I thought it would wash out 
of the people themselves, but no ; unlimited baths 
in hosfntal fSuled to dispel the suggestion in the air ; 
it is a natural thing, the effect of a diet of raw meat 
and fish and blubber. I asked one of our most 
sensible men one day whether the people knew it. 
'* Atsuk " (I don't know), he said, '' but we do know 
that you KablunlLks (Europeans) have an odour of 
your own. We can always tell if any of you have 
been in our houses"! No, the Eskimo odour will 
always be there, even in those model houses of my 
dreams, but the stufiy, foetid air can be removed. 
How to do it? Ay, there's the rub. I did some 
serious cogitating about it, but, as things turned out, 
the solution came in quite an off-hand and unex- 
pected way. Tomas was building a new house, 
and he came to me with a very simple request. ** I 
want to build a good house," he said, *' because I 
catch many seals. I want glass windows, not 
windows of seals' bowels : I want to be able to see 
out of my windows when the days are fine. Can 
you find me a piece of proper wood for a window 
frame among the wood that you have?" '*By 
all means," I told him ; ** here is a piece of soft pine: 
and you shall have it without paymoit if you will 
make a window like this of mine that op^is on 
hinges." Tomas studied my window, and opened 
it and shut it, and grinned, and looked at me — and 
coveted that piece of pine. ** Yes," he said, ** it shall 

be;" and off he trotted with his prize— surely the 



first Eskimo house-improvements prize I I walked 
along several times to see how he was getting along 
with his new house and his new window; and I 
found that another man, quite a poor fellow, who 
was building himself a tiny hut near by, was abo 
making a window to open. He had seen Tomas 
at work, and, of course, was inquisitive. ^* Hello, 
Tomas, what sort of a window are you making ? " 
"Ah," says Tomas, "new sort, very fine; see, it 
opens on hinges." " Piovok (that looks good) : teach 
me how to do it ; I must have a window like that" 

Ay, even reforms can be infectious I 

I do not for a moment want to take the credit 
for those windows that opened on hinges ; it would 
be unfair to generations of hardworking missionaries 
if I did, for there were windows on hinges before ever 
I came to Labrador; but I saw a solution to my 
problem in that little incident It was a case of 
working on the imitative faculties of these people, 
and trusting to reforms to become habits. 

What stubborn learners they are I Tell them to 
do a thing, and they will do it out of mere obedience 
so long as your eye is *on them ; but leave them to 
their own devices, and they slip back to their old 
ways at once. They do not see the ** why " of things. 
When I ordered sanitary reforms, they always used 
to raise their eyebrows. " Why should we do that ? " 
they would say, ** our fathers never did it : it is not a 
custom of the people." 

But here was a peg to hang things on: the 
Eskimos would imitate. Imitate 1 I have never seen 
any one to equal them. 

When I put on my skates, so as to have the 

distinction of saying that I had skated on the North 



Atlantic, out came the bojrs with slabs of firewood 
and strips of bone — seal's ribs, mostly— or waste 
scraps of hoop iron from the cooper's shop, and made 
skates for themselves. They bound them to their 
soft boots with moist seal-hide thongs, and twirled 
and tumbled, and laughed and rubbed their bruises, 
till they could catch me up and swoop lau^ung 
round me, and sail off and catch me up again. 

And they imitate so thoroughly too. 

One day there had been a fimeral, and after it 
was all over I heard a sound of singing. It was the 
funeral hymn over again. I looked out, and saw a 
group of boys, all standing round a long hole in the 
snow, and singing lustily. When their singing was 
finished they heaped snow into the hole, and built it 
into a mound, and very deliberatdy patted it smooth 
and then walked off two by two towards the village. 
I could not help laughing at the young rascals, for 
I suppose all children play at funerals. But these 
little Eskimos were doing things properly, for after 
the mock-mourners had all gone the moimd gave a 
great heave, and a small boy poked his head up snd 
crawled out, shaking the snow out of his shaggy hair 
as he ran to join his mates. 

Yes, the Eskimos would imitate. If Moses had 
dug up the filth-sodden mud floor of his hut, and 
replaced it with a neat layer of boards, sure enough 
somebody else would want to do the same, and there 
wouldbeagreattimeofdiggingandboarding. Some 
of the men went off to the woods for planks ; others, 
who had not dogs enough, or who were too poor to 
spare the time, came to beg or buy our old packing- 
cases. Some of them seemed to tiiink the marks cm 

the cases a grand ornamentation of the flow, for they 








turned the boards the proper way up, so that the 

floors told tales of" Cube Sugar " and " Prime Lard " 

and ** per Harmony to Okak." But the boards were 

there, and the trampled slush that I have had to 

splash through on my visits, and that reeked of 

what Shakespeare might have had in mind when 

he wrote " a very ancient and fish-like smell/' was 


But it was all very well to teach the people to 

have wooden floors ; that was only half the lesson. 

The floors wanted washing I Eskimo floors are 

proverbially filthy ; the thing cannot be helped. If 

the hunter is to earn his living, if his wife is to do 

her work and make the most of his catch, the seals 

must be thawed and cut up, and the floor will be 

spattered with blood and oil. Floor-washing is an 

established custom in most of the houses — in fact 

many of them are scrubbed out every day; but it 

looked as if it would be difficult to get the owners of 

the dismal little iglos to alter their ways ; folks who 

had only got a dim inkling of the value of ventilation 

and dean floors, and who had mostly lived their 

lives under the shade of seal-bowel window panes 

and in the odour of blubber-soaked floors — ^it seemed 

as if it would be hard to persuade thefn to scrub those 

floors and open those windows. But the idea was 

there, working in their own minds, talked over, 

maybe, at their great palavers ; better times are in 

store for the Eskimos, and the making of better 

things is in their own grasp, though perhaps they 

only partly know it. I got a hint of the trend of 

things from an Eskimo woman, a nice quiet soul, 

a widow, whose misfortune it was to live in a hut 

of the most horrible sort. Her son was somehow 



• il ;^IT^I 

inspired to build a new house. Now it ha] 
that Sarah used to do odd bits of work for us, and 
we used to pay her mostly in kind. Her quaint 
requests for payment would fill a page — once she 
came and asked for a tin of Swiss milk (!) because her 
son's wife had got a baby, and Sarah wanted to 
celebrate the tremendous occasion that had made her 
a grandmother, and a very young and blooming 
grandmother too, by giving the baby a tasty and 
appropriate present. I hoped, however, that the new 
arrival would get fed as Eskimo babies ought, and 
very likely the big members of the household would 
eat the Swiss milk off their fingers. But to get 
back to my story : on this particular occasion Sarah 
giggled and was shy. 

** What do you want, Sarah ? " (More giggles I) 

This was strange, and I wondered whatever could 
be in Sarah's mind. After much coaxing, out it 
came. '' My son," said Sarah, *' has built a new 
house, you know, and we have got a wooden floor. 
1 should like to keep it clean, and scrub it often. 
Will you g^ve me a scrubbirig'brush ? " 

Never have I given anything more willingly! 
I rushed off to get that scrubbing-brush, blessing 
Sarah's good Eskimo heart for its spontaneous long- 
ings after cleanliness. 

One of the great difficulties that has always con- 
fronted those who have spent their lives in teaching 
the Eskimos is that the people, in the natural 
conservatism of their minds, nearly always resent 
new ideas and new suggestions. My own experience 
has been that they are far more teachable and tract- 
able when they are in a good humour. A certain 

degree of good humour is the natural Eskimo state 



of mind, and it takes but a little to bring the amount 
to an efifervescent, bubbling over stage. 

Then was the time to point a moral ; then was 
the time to propose some sanitary reform; then 
was the time to teach some wholesome lesson. The 
magic lantern was a great help in this direction : the 
people shouted with glee to see their own faces on the 
screen, and sat quietly listening while I told them 
some Bible story or talked of better houses and ideal 
home life. 

I must confess that it took me some time to 
understand their sense of humour. I thought that 
anything obviously grotesque would make them 
laugh, so I drew a caricature of a reindeer on a glass 
slide and showed them that. I know that it was 
funny, because the missionaries laughed; but the 
Eskimos received it in stony silence. ^'Come," thought 
I, '* this is a funny thing, you ought to enjoy this : " 
and I left the grinning, knock-kneed thing on the 
screen for a minute or two, and finally put in an 
explanatory suggestion '* Tuktu-ai *' (a reindeer, eh). 

Big Josefs small voice broke the silence: he is 
the mighty hunter of Okak, and spoke with weight. 
*' That is not like a reindeer : now we know that you 
have never seen one. Come to the hunt with me 
next Easter, and you will see what a reindeer looks 
like ; then you will be able to make a better likeness." 

The first laugh I got out of them was at a picture 

of one of the Nain Eskimos crouching behind a rock, 

aiming at an imaginary seal with his gun. They 

roared with glee, and rolled about in their seats 

shouting ** Look at him — ^ai-ai, just see — ^it is Joas of 

Nain, and he is shooting left-handed." I had put 

the slide in the lantern wrong side about I 



I found it very easy to please the people ; they 
would look at pictures by the hour, and as for music, 
it was the very summit of bliss. When I got a new 
harmonium with stops there was a constant pro- 
cession of visitors to see the marveL They gave 
deep grunts of wonder when I pulled out the stops 
and caused the different tones, and leaned over to 
pull them for themselves; and when the coupler 
stop came out and the octave keys went down with- 
out any fingers touching them they edged away 
with apprehension, and then came crowding back to 
see it again* 

The best music, to their minds, is the gramo- 
phone. That pleases them the most; it sings and 
plays and talks and whistles; and, as one of the 
people said to me one evening when I suggested 
that they had had enough, '* We could listen to it all 

Some of them had never seen a talking machine 
before, and I had to laugh at their bewilderment. 
They got close up to the trumpet, to see what was 
going on at the bottom of it ; they held the discs to 
their ears, in the hope of hearing the music that 
way ; they scrambled for the worn needle-points, and 
carried them home as trophies; and all the time 
they kept up a running fire of comments— " Ai-ai, 
that is the voice of a very tall man ; nala, it is even 
better than our brass band ; immal6, why cannot it 
sing like an Eskuno ? " 



A Lonely Land— The Coming of the Ship — Our Postman — 
Visitors — Labrador Gardens — The Language. 

IABRADOR is a lonely land. That is its 
^ reputation ; but we who live and work there 
round the year find it such a little world of its 
own that we have no time to mope and feel 

Time flies, even in lonely Labrador. 

But however absorbed we might be in our 
work and in the people around us, however much 
our thoughts might move in our little Labrador 
circle, we all of us looked forward to the month of 
July to bring the great red-letter day of the year, 
for in the month of July we expected the ship. 
It seems a wonderful thing that so small a ship 
as the Harmony — a barque of 222 tons, fitted 
with steam and sails — should cross the Atlantic so 
regularly, and never fail, year after year, to link 
us up vrith home and kindred; but so it is. The 
Harmony is in skilful hands : there are the prayers 
of God's people behind her: and perhaps that is 
the explanation of the thing. 

We could never know the day; but as July 

dragged by we' deserted the jetty on our daily 

walks, and climbed the hills instead, stumbling 

through sodden moss and patches of half-melted 

snow for the sake of a view of the ocean. I know 

that such hill climbing was futile, for the Eskimos 



at their sealing-places are certain to see the ship 
first and give some signal ; but it relieved our feel- 
ings, and that was something. We wrote our letters, 
we made room in the store for the new cargo of 
supplies, we talked and talked and talked about 
the ship— we could talk of nothing else — ^untU at 
last there came a sudden shout, sudden in spite of 
all our waitings. *' Pujoliarluit " (the big steamer) 
it roared and shrilled from all parts of the village. 
Guns banged; people came running, shouting as 
they ran, racing for the jetty; and out on the 
bay a man was paddling home as if for dear life. 
As soon as he was near enough to be heard he 
yelled '*A fire on Parkavik." That was enough; 
a fire on the beach might be cookery, but a fire 
on the hill was the signal; and he in his kajak 
had seen the smdke and had fired the two bangs 
with his gun that the people understood. Boats 
came bustling across the bay, with sails spread 
and oars all busy: and in half-an-hour the quiet 
village was populous again. Every house seemed 
to have a flag, from the big red ensign on the 
Mission flagstaff to the bandanna handkerchief that 
was fluttering on an oar out of somebody's window. 
Even the old widow in the hut behind the hospital 
was entering into the spirit of the day; she had 
no flag, but she had sacrificed her red petti<MMit, 
and was scrambling up her roof to pin it to a 
tentpole propped against the eaves. 

It was an hour or more before the ship came 
into sight, and then, when the tall masts came 
peeping over the rocks of the point and the little 
black hull slipped silently into the mouth of the 
bay, the shouting and banging b^an afiresh. The 


men were wild with glee : I saw one brawny fellow 
with a Winchester repeater letting off round after 
round in his delight, until he had shot away enough 
cartridges to account for dozens of prospective seals ; 
he was as delighted as we, and tiiat was his way 
of showing it. 

One gets a trifle sentimental in Labrador; and 
I never saw the ship come or go without a lump 
in my throat. It means so much, both to us 
and to the Eskimos, that everybody looks upon 
it with real affection; and it was with throbbing 
hearts that we waited for the anchor to drop. 

The ship came slowly on and on, looking 
strangely near in the clear air; we could see the 
fur-clad captain on the bridge, and the first mate 
standing on the bow, just over the painted angel that 
spreads her wings beneath the bowsprit. The mate's 
hand rose ; there was a sharp clatter, and the anchor 
plunged into the water. At the same moment Jerry 
the organist raised his voice, and the people joined 
in the funous old chorale, '*Now let us praise 
the Lord." 

^* Gud nakorilavut 
Omamut illtoAnut'' 

The Moravian Church uses it as a New Year s 
hymn ; and I thought it fitted in rather well with the 
coming of the ship, for that is by far the biggest 
milestone in the roimd of the Labrador year. 

The Harmony was our first source of news after 

the long winter, and, naturally enough, we used to 

go on board all athirst for information and bursting 

with questions. How the captain must have smiled 

to himself at the perennial volley. 

821 X 


<*Is the King alive and well ?"—'< How is the 
world ? " — " Is there peace everywhere ? " — Such ques- 
tions do not seem so odd if you rememher that we had 
not seen a newspapa since the year before 1 And 
letters! We got our big budget by the ship; but 
there was always a winter bag by the overland nuiil 
from Montreal to BJgolette, and this was handed 
along by one means or another until we got it about 

During the winter we had a little Labrador post 
of our own. 

On the 20th of January big Josef started 
south with his sledge and dogs, to meet the 
messenger from the southern stations at Nain. 
After a stay of two or three days to give the Nain 
missionaries time to read and answer their letters — 
days which Josef spent in going the round of the 
village and delivering the laborious salutations of 
which the Eskimos are so fond — ^he travdled back 
again. We used to meet him as he drove up to the 
Mission house, and shake his great hand, and smile, 
and tell him we were glad to see him — and so we 

Sometimes there were a few belated European 
letters in the bag, a welcome spice in the pile of 
coast news ; aye, we knew what it was to fed thank- 
ful for the postman, in Labrador. 

Next day Jerry would take the mail sledge north- 
ward, while Josef rested on his laurels and told tales 
of his trip, and delivered himself of his burden of 
salutations. He went about it with great solemnity. 
He had all the greetings written down, and usually 
called a mass meeting in one of the huts to get rid 
of the most of them. Sometimes he had a general 


message to deliver, and in such a case he would beg 
leave to announce it after one of the meetings in 
church. The congregation sat quietly in their 
places, while big Josef rose and stalked solenmly to 
the missionary's table. ** Jonas and his wife, Naine- 
mint (Nain people), send greetings to all the people 
of Okak," he would say in his quiet voice, and then 
make his dignified way to his seat by the door, while 
the people shuffled and began to pick up their hynm- 
books ready for home. 

Jerry, our northern postman, was a great man for 
adventures ; he generally had something out of the 
common to relate. 

Once he broke through thin ice on a river, and 
had to run all day long to keep his clothes from 
setting sti£P and jointless — he must have known what 
the old knights felt like in their armour: another 
time he was caught in a storm, and had to spend a 
couple of awfiil nights among the rocks and the 
snow. When he wanted a drink of warm tea, he 
cut chips off his sledge and made a fire. So much 
for our great luxury, the postman. 

Our other great luxuries were our occasional 

They used to come quite unexpectedly, for they 

had no chance of giving warning : imagine our de* 

light, therefore, at an unexpected vessel or sledge, 

bringing news, and above all, bringing a fresh voice 

to talk to us. I am afraid we rather bored our 

visitors, dragging them into our rooms to make them 

talk and tell us ,the news ; but let them be consoled, 

because their visits were real godsends to us in our 

lonely land, even though they had come, first of all, 

to see the Eskimos and the scenery. 



Certainly the Eskimos took great interest in our 
visitors. I remember one gentleman who was on 
the hill taking photographs of birds, snap-shotting 
them in their wild haunts. The Eskimos could 
not understand this. ''What is he doing?" they 
said. '* Takka, see him» he is crawling on his hands 
and knees among the stones ; ai, ai — ^now he is hiding 
behind a rock — ^whatever is he after ? ** 

One wiseacre among them, who had perhaps 
heard of Klondike, suggested that the gentleman was 
finding gold I '' Goldemik/' they chorussed, and 
after him they went, peering and muttering as he 
crouched among the moss, and searching intently 
wherever he happened to make a halt. I am not 
surprised that they have the idea of gold, for the 
rocks are rich in copper and iron, and several times 
the people have brought shining lumps of pyrites to 
me, to ask ** Is it gold ? " 

I saw one visitor gazing with rueful oountaiance 
upon a ruinous-looking heap of sticks on the jetty. 
He had bought a kajak the day before, and had un- 
vrisely left it out of doors to wait for the ship, and 
during the night the dogs had made a meal of it 
No doubt they found the sealskin cover tasty ; but 
they had also made an attack on the oil-soaked 
frameworic, gnawing it as if it were the bones of the 
thing. The Eskimos are wise enough to put their 
kajaks on poles ; I thought it was to keep tiketa dry, 
but I see now that it is partly to keep them out of 
the jaws of the dogs. 

But work was the great thing that kept 

us healthy in mind and body. While the people 

were at home we were constantly among them; 

while they wae away at their hunting and fishing 



there was alwajrs work to be done, either outdoors 
or in. 

As soon as Easter was over we set to work on 
the snow-clearing. This was a task for the women 
and the old men, while the hunters were after the 
reindeer. The snow that had drifted against our 
walls during the winter had to be dug away: it 
seemed an inmiense task, but to leave it undone 
would mean that when the thaw came our floors 
would be swamped and our foundations washed 
away, so we followed the example of the Eskimos 
and cleared it away. The biggest task was to dig 
out the liver. This was buried under thirty feet of 
snow, caked hard with the wind, and in some parts 
of it the people had to work like navvies at a railway 
cutting. The men used to cut the snow into blocks 
with great sword-knives, and heap it on the sledges ; 
then the women raced with the load down to the 
beach, and tipped it among the ice*hummocks. 
Blaster fell late one year^ and the river began to run 
before its course was properly made. The first hint 
I had of it was a noise at the back of the hospital, 
and there I fomid a sort of miniature Niagara roaring 
over the edge of the snoW'-drift and lashing against 
our walls. The church floor was flooded ; and some 
Eskimos in a hut near by woke from their slumbers 
to find their chairs and their boxes floating about, 
and themselves in bed in a house ftill of water. We 
called for volunteers, and had soon given out all the 
spades and shovels ; those who were too late for 
spades took hatchets and snow-knives, poles, oars, 
planks, and anything, and before the day was 
out the river was running furiously in its proper 


While we were directiiig the people at the snow- 
clearing, we followed their example, and wore dai^ 
goggles to protect our eyes. The old Eskimo custom 
was to wear a strip of wood with a narrow slit cut 
in it over each eye ; but smoked glasses are so cheap 
and easy to get, that the old fashion has gone out. 
The Eskimos have not big enough noses to wear the 
ordinary spectacles ; at the least jolt the spectacles 
slip down into the wearer's mouth ; so they stitch the 
glasses into a strip of black cloth, and bind it round 
their heads. 

Every spring, after the return of the reindeer 
hunters, we had our meat-tinning time. The 
hunters were very willing to bring legs of meat at a 
reasonable price, and the washing, roastii^, cutting 
up, and tinning of the meat made quite a busy week. 
We put up enough reindeer steaks to last us two or 
three dinners a week for a twelvemonth, and though 
we were only amateurs the meat was always whole- 
some. After the tinning came the gardening. This 
sounds a remarkable thing, gardening in that pro- 
verbially bleak and barren place, Lateidor ; but by 
care and hard work the missionaries of years ago 
have made gardens, and we reap the benefit of their 
labours. There is not much soil; the spade soon 
comes on clay and rock, and {Hrobably those old 
missionaries had to carry soil in barrows and build it 
into gardens before they could get their vegetables 
to take root and thrive. Six or seven feet down the 
ground is permanently frozen, as they discovered at 
Nain a few years ago, when they were digging a hole 
for a flagstaff. The thick blanket of snow that 
covers the soil in the winter preserves some of the 

roots; our English rhubarb used to come up year 



after year, rather stringy and small, perhaps, but 
none the less alive. We got the snow cleared away 
in May, and then left the ground to thaw in the 
sunshine. The actual planting out did not take 
place until July, and in the meantime the vegetables 
were growing in the house or under frames. Our 
minds used to run upon gardening from as early as 
February, when we sorted the likeliest of the potatoes 
from the others, and laid them on trays in the warm 
store-room to sprout; but we had to wait for the 
soil to thaw, and it was not until the nights began to 
get a trifle milder that we dared to put our cress 
and lettuce and cabbage and potatoes in the open air. 

Then the gardens wanted nursing. 

Our three enemies were the dogs, the mice, and 
the frost 

The dogs were delighted to have a patch of 

freshly dug soil for their romps and their scrambles, 

but we managed to keep them out by the help of 

wooden palings. Sometimes they climbed over, or 

burrowed underneath, and then it was good-bye to 

our garden stuff; but mostly we made things secure 

enough to baffle them. The mice were a more 

serious nuisance: they were wide-awake and very 

hungry, and found our nice young shoots of lettuce 

and cabbage very tempting, far better than buried 

twigs and frozen roots. It was rather a laborious 

thing to have to do, but in years when mice were 

plentifid we went round every evening and covered 

each shoot with an empty meat-tin, and made a 

second pilgrimage in the morning to uncover them 

all again. The frost we fought by covering each 

row with a wooden framework ; and the old widows 

who worked in the blubber yard made it their 



Annual etre to go round at night and spread sacks 
over the frame, and to take the sacks off and put 
them away every morning. For this they got a 
present of a coujde of dollars and an armful of green 
vegetahles at the end of the season, and shrill were 
their cries of '^Nakomdk/' and broad were their 
grins of happiness, when the time came for them to 
get their perquisite. 

And this is how we managed to persuade the 
hardier sorts of vegetables to grow to a moderate and 
eatable siae before the ground froze again in October. 

And among all our other work, we had the 
language to leam. It is not an easy language, but 
I have this to its credit: it is beautifully gram- 
matical, governed by plain, straightforward rules, 
and the rules are absolutely without excqitions. 
For this last reason I have even ventured to say that 
I would rather leam Eskimo again than any of the 
languages I had to leam at schooL The great 
difficulty is that the learning involves a prodigious 
feat of memory; there are so many words for the 
same thing under different circumstances ; and it is 
quite the proper thing to build up a word of fifteen 
or sixteen syllables by sticking all sorts of tags and 
bits between the unchanging root of a verb and its 
grammatical and expressive ending. To take a veiy 
mild example — 

'' Tikkipok — ^he comes ; 
Tikki-niarasuarkdr-pok— he will probably try to come.'' 

On the other hand, there are quite short words 
which express some picturesque idea, such as 6tck — 
the seal which is basking on the ice in the spring 
sunshine ; and, taken all together, the language is a 



very storehouse for the seeker after somethmg 
interesting. One thing that used to puzzle me was 
the use of " Yes " and " No " in answer to questions. 
If I said to a workman ''Have you not finished 
yet ? " and he answered " No," he would mean " On 
the contrary, I have finished.'' " Yes '' would imply 
''Quite so, I have not] finished." This always 
troubles new beginners, and I suppose that nobody 
has escaped misunderstandings with the people over 
the difference in usage. Another stumblii^-block 
was their misunderstanding of dependent sentences. 
One day my wife said to the servant girl, 
" Veronica^ if you do not do your work better, you 
will have to go home " — and home went Veronica on 
the instant, sobbing and wailing at what she thought 
was her dismissal. It is very pleasant to know that 
the language has been compressed in a grammar 
book and dictionary, for some of the pioneers must 
have had serious hours of thinking and planning to 
put abstract ideas in a way that the people could 

When the missionaries came, there was no word 
for "forgiveness'' in the whole of the Eskimo 
language 1 They set about making one, and evolved 
the splendid picture-word " IssumagijaujuQgnainer- 
mik " based on the verb " issuma-vok " (he thinks). 

And so the picture of forgiveness to an Eskimo 
mind is " not being able to think about it any more." 



The Eskimo and the Mission 

IT was in 1771 that the missionaries of the Mora- 
vian Church came to Labrador. Before that time 
very little was known about the Eskimo people. 
Vessels seldom braved the stormy waters of Labrador, 
or, if they did, they ventured but little among the 
numberless rocks and islands that fringe the mainland 
So it came about that the Eskimos were seldom seen ; 
and the few reports that were brought to the civilised 
world by returning fisher crews described them as a 
totally savage and uncultured people. They seem to 
have deserved the name; for the first men who 
landed from the Missicm ships were killed. 

But this ministering to those who live in the 
remote comers of the world seems to have been a 
specially attractive thing to the Moravian Church, 
from the very beginning of its missions to the 
heathen; and here was a race, far off indeed, but 
none the less included in the old command, " Gro ye 
. . . and preach the Gospel to every creature.*' The 
missionaries came, and began their quiet work of 
preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ by word and 
example, a work that has been carried on without a 
pause through all the years since then ; and so it has 
come to pass that the bleak and terrible coast of Labra- 
dor is peopled by a Christian race. Only at the furthest 

north are there still heathen ; a tribe of wanderers 



who are now clustered in their tents and snow huts 
around the little wooden church at Killinek. 

At the older stations, with their weather-beaten 
wooden huts and their trim, white-painted Mission 
houses, the people are bred and bom in a Christian 
atmosphere, and life at these villages gives a true 
picture of life in a native Christian community. 

To see the people go to church is in itself an 
inspiration : the bell rings, and in they flock. There 
is no compulsion ; they go because they like to go ; 
it is a pleasure to them. 

Of course during the seasons of open water the 
attendance is comparatively small; the people are 
scattered at their hunting and fishing places, maybe 
twenty miles from the village, and though a good 
number of the nearer ones come by boat for the 
Sunday services, it is in the winter that we see the 
church crowded every day. If any one wants to be 
cheered up, I recommend an Eskimo Christmas 
service. There is a dignity about it : the missionary 
has the people well in hand ; they listen eagerly to 
what he has to say and read, and join right lustily in 
the hymns : there is pathos, too, as you can see if 
you look at the worn but beaming face of the cripple 
packed among a pile of reindeer skins on the floor ; 
there is humour, too, in the way some solemn old 
hunter has to find a seat among the little children on 
the front bench because the other places are all full ; 
he lets himself gravely down while tiie children nudge 
one another and edge away in awe. 

It^is a charming sight, to look over that sea of 

faces from the missionary's bench ; every eye is fixed 

on the speaker, every face is tense and eager. In 

the very front are the children, on their special low 



benches ; at the back, against the wall, is the seat 
for the mothers, where they sit with their babies 
sleeping in. their hoods, <xr waking to gaze around and 
whimper at the wonders they can see ; in between 
are the boys and girls and grown up folks* Hardly 
anybody stays at home : the doors are lodged against 
the prowling dogs; the frozen dinner waits upon 
the floor. 

There is an Eskimo organist, and close to him 
sits the Eskimo choir, ready to lead the hymns or 
sing an anthem. 

Jerry, our Okak organist, plays by ear, and coaxes 
splendid harmony out of our aged pipe organ with its 
octave of pedals and its row of haJf*a-dozen st<^. 
For voluntaries he plays pieces from the onXonos or 
tunes from the newest collections; and when the 
hymns aie announced he pulls out his stops and 
shuffles his feet on the pedals, and with a mi^ty 
burst of music the congregation breaks forUi into 
singing, while Jerry, with his magic touch, leads the 
voices steadily on, in perfect tune and stately. time. 

It is a charming sound, the sound of singing from 
these rough people ; a sound the like of which was 
never known in Labrador before the missionaries 
came. The Eskimos possess no native music, no 
traditional tunes, no melodious folk-songs of their 
own ; the only music that they knew was the dismal 
and monotonous rhythmic chant which the heathen 
sorcerer used to aid his works of darkness. Some- 
how the soil was in the people, and the seed of music 
has taken root in it and changed the Eskimo nation 
into one of the most musical of peoples. 

Jerry is our bandmaster at Okak ; and on winter 

mornings, when the snow is powdering down, and 


An Eskimo Boat-buildbr 

Ai uon u tbc ics orlbe lu ibowi ugni ot bialiini, Ibt Eiliim 
nttti ud tbe nllus boM'boildcr is in gnat dcmnnd. It U quite 

(K oT llic people ibM 

Jeremias, Organist and Bandmaster at Okak 

Jerry, iIm un of old Rulh. ii a veiy clever muiicun, and it able to pI*T clu 
on tbe orgui. M«l of Ibe natin boiues bout i inuiicil iDitrument of lODie ion- 


the chilly air nips the fingers, he leads his little troop 
of bandsmen from house to house, delisting the 
populace with the blare of the trumpets. He likes 
to encircle himself with the bombardon, to lend a 
solid foundation to the harmony ; but if one of the 
men is away he is quite able to take the comet or 
horn or whatever it may be, and leave the bottom 
notes for Benjamin's trombone. It is hard work, 
but the bandsmen are happy; the morning frost 
may settle on their heads, the moisture may freease 
inside their trumpets in spite of shawls and stockings 
wrapped round them, the mouthpieces may stidc 
to their lips with the cold ; but they are Eskimos ; 
winter weather does not easily daunt them or numb 
their fingers ; and, besides, to play a trumpet in the 
band is one of the greatest honours that an i Eskimo 
knows. Grood character comes first in the choosing 
of the bandsmen. 

Several of the old customs of the Moravian 
Church have taken firm root among the Eskimos, 
and though in England they are lost, in Labrador 
they go on from year to year unchanged. Nature 
has henmied the land of the Eskimos in with a 
broad barrier of ice; the marvels of these modem 
times, which are causing othar countries to move 
with giant strides, leave the northern Labrador 
practically untouched ; the years circle with a same- 
ness that marks a little world; the people them* 
selves are slow to change; and so the customs of 
years ago still prevail The men and women sit 
apart in the church, the men on one side, the vramen 
on the other ; the various sections of the congrega* 
tion — children, single men, single women, married 
people, widows — all have their special festival days. 


when they wear their native dress, and eagerly listen 
to pointed sennons addressed specially to themsdves ; 
modem hjrmn-tunes have not yet supplanted the 
majestic old chorales. 

The people have their own little customs: a 
young girl ties her pbuted hair with a pink ribbon; 
a married woman uses blue ; a widow, white. The 
plaits at the sides hang down in front of the girl's 
ears, dangling in neat little knots; but when she 
becomes a full member of the church, attending the 
communion service — and this she may not do until 
she has reached the sensible age of seventeen — she 
loops her side plaits under her ears and fastens them 
at the back of her head. These are innocent little 
things, which appeal strongly to the Eskimo love of 
the picturesque, and suit their simple minds. 

The practical control of the Eskimos has been 

left in the hands of the Mission ; and the Mission, 

in turn, has taken the wise course of appointing a 

number of the people, generally three or four men 

and the same number of women, to act as helpers 

in the maintenance of law and order in the villages. 

These helpers are called ^'Eivgat'' (literally 

^* servants "), and their first duty is the care of the 

church ; but they are the virtual leaders of the 

village life. Though they are *' chapel-servants," 

their post is one of honour : they are chosen because 

of trusty and sterling character, and their service 

is for life. The least lapse fix>m moral uprightness 

would mean deposal, butjl have only once known 

such a thing to happen. It seemed strange to me, 

when I thought of the old Eskimo custom of yirntlpng 

the best hunter the leader, regardless of his character, 

to see our Okak people listening with respect and 



approval to the advice of one of the very poorest of 
the men, because he was a good man and a chapel- 
servant t Times have changed; and the Eskimos 
have learnt a better appreciation of a man's worth. 

If there is a vacancy in their ranks, the remaining 
Kivgat meet the missionary and talk over the 
question of a suitable man or woman for the office, 
and there never seems to be any great difference of 
opinion about the right one to choose. 

In addition to the chapel-servants, each village 
has a committee of three or four men, elected by the 
people themselves. 

These men have more strictly temporal duties; 
they lode after the outward welfare of the village, 
and convey the wishes of the people to the mission- 
aries. Elections are by ballot, and take place every 
three years ; and weighty functions they are. In 
our village of Okak there were four representatives, 
and every man thus had the right to put four names 
on a piece of paper: my duty was to collect the 
papers in a bowl, while the men sat solemnly in 
rows in the church. The missionary gravely 
unfolded the papers, and read the names aloud, 
while the store-keeper and I jotted down the 
numbers. It was quite evident that the thing had 
been talked over for many a day, for the voting was 
practically unanimous, and the reading of each 
paper produced a grunt of assent from the lines of 
voters. There was one spice of comic relief to the 
solemnity, and that was when we discovered that 
some village humorist had written his own name 
four times. ''Aron, Aron, Aron, Aron," read the 
missionary; and the whole assembly went ofi^ into 
roars of laughter, while those who were near enough 



dapped Aioa cm the bade, and covered him with 

conftisioQ. When the counting was finished the 

missionary read the result^ and asked the four who 

headed the poll to stand. << Are you willing to serve 

dutifully as an elder of the people?'' he asked them 

one by one, and when each had given his ** Ahaila'' 

of assent the meeting dispersed at the simple word 

<< Taimak '' (so let it be). 

These chapd-servants and elders are wonderfully 

successful in maintaining the tone of native life ; 

they are not only trustworthy people, but they have 

high ideals too. Witness their action when the 

drink evil began to get a grip upon the Eskimos. 

That was in 1907, after some evil genius had taught 

the people to brew a vile and powerful concoction 

from treade and mouldy biscuits. Several of the 

men b^an to get drunk, and prowled about with all 

their evil passions loosed. The chapel-servants and 

dders called a meeting of the men in one of the 

biggest of the huts. '* This new habit is bad," they 

said, ''it will ruin the people: let us cast it out." 

And cast it out they did. Grave-faced men, with 

care upon their shoulders, travelled from CHkak to 

the stations nivth and south; men from the other 

staticms came to Okak ; all were bent on the same 

errand, the discussion of the drink question. They 

returned from their joumejdngs with their aim 

accomplished : " Kajusimavut," they said, '' the mind 

of the people is made up — ^the brewing and drinking 

must cease.'' They called the men together, and got 

a promise from every one that the kegs of liquor 

should be smashed and the drink poured on the 

snow, and that there should be no more brewing; 

and when one young man refused to smash his keg, 


The Eskimo Schoolhastrr 

>f ihc ni«( cultund of the Eikimoi., He a ptobablv tb 


two of the chapel-servants went along to his hut and 
did it for him. The drink evil was abolished ; and so, 
by their own wish, the Eskimos became what they 
had always been, a teetotal nation. 

I suppose that it is a remarkable thing to find a 
people amongst whom there are no prisons and no 
police and practically no serious crime, but so it is 
among the Eskimos of Labrador, 

They are a peaceable, law-abiding folk ; and the 
credit for it must be given to the simple Gospel that 
has raised them fix>m the past of their race. There 
is sin, yes ; they are prone to fall into their besetting 
weakness, a relic of the old promiscuous tent and 
snow-house life; but flagrant breach of order or 
discipline is very rare, so much so that a thief is almost 
an unheard-of being among these kindly, open-handed 

I think the thing that pleased me most in my 

study of this interesting people, was the fact that 

they are still true Eskimos. In all their patient 

preaching and teaching the missionaries have never. 

forgotten that the Eskimo mogt remain an Eskimo if 

he is to win his livelihood as a hunter in the frozen 

climate of his land ; and while they have instilled 

habits of morality and clean living, and have,* weeded 

out habits that are bad and harmful, they have 

urged the people to keep closely to their native foods 

and habits of life, and clothing; in a word, their 

policy has been to make the Eskimo a better Eskimo. 

The natural isolation of Labrador has helped them in 

tfiis, and has helped them, too, to stand between the 

people and the vices that civilisation might bring if it 

were not grafted on their nature by careful minds. 

The Mission is still hard at work, preaching the 

887 Y 


simple Grospel and caring for the people. I wondered, 
when I first went to Labrador, how some of those 
Bible pictures, so familiar to us, could appeal to 
a people living in so desolate a land. Tliere are 
no sheep in Labrador, no cows, no milk and honey — 
excepting the kind in tins ; no fruit-trees better than 
the dwarfed brushwood that crawls upon the ground : 
but the Eskimo is a man who is not much troubled 
by doubts; he takes his Bible literally, drinking in 
its teaching with a child's simplicity; and, by the 
use of pictures and carefiil explanations, the Bible 
stories have become as real and helpful to the Eskimos 
as they are to us. 

The Mission is educating the children : at every 
station school is held on four days a week during the 
winter months, and the children begin to attend after 
their sixth birthday. Usually the smallest are taught 
by an Eskimo ; a wise thing, for an Eskimo has the 
knack of putting tilings in a way that the child mind 
can grasp ; later, the missionary takes them in hand 
and leads them from the stage of strokes and pot- 
hooks and the spelling of queer syllables to real 
writing and the reading of books, and even among 
the mysteries of simple arithmetic. Reckonipg is 
difficult ; it is foreign to the Eskimo nature, so that 
even the numerals have had to be imported ; there 
are no numbers in the Eskimo language beyond 
twenty, and the word for twenty is '< a whole man — 
ten fingers and ten toes." But in spite of difficulties, 
by the time the boy and girl leave school they can 
reckon dollars and cents, and find their numbers in 
the hjrmn-book; and as for reading and writing, 
every Eskimo on the coast, over the age of twelve 

or thirteen, can manage so much, and their knowledge 



of the Bible would put many a more civilised person 
to shame. 

There is not a very extensive literature at the 
disposal of the Eskimo with a taste for reading ; the 
Bible is the chief book, but besides it there are trans* 
lations of The Pilgrim's Progress^ Christ}/ s Old 
OrgaUy Jessica's First Prayer^ a book of short read* 
ings in natural history and general knowledge, the 
various school books, the hymn-books used in the 
church — and the newspaper I The Eskimo newspaper 
is by no means a daily ; rather it takes the form of 
an annual budget, printed by the missionaries at Nain 
during the winter ; but it teUs the people something 
of the doings of other lands, and it helps to stir their 
loyalty as British subjects. I see by the copy that 
reached me by post the other day, that even the 
Eskimos are beginning to write articles, and doubt- 
less they enjoy the conundrums that fill up a space 
at the foot of one of the columns. The people like 
their newspaper, and I think that it deserves its title, 
though it be an unwieldy one in these days of crisp 
writing : Aglcdt lUunainortut (The Paper for Every- 
body). Far away from those who read these lines, 
shut in their lonely land by the great ice-barrier, the 
missionaries are standing at their posts ; and by their 
quiet labours, it seems to me, they are working out 
the saving of a nation. 

I lay my pen aside, with my mind still full of the 
memories that are so vivid to me. Brown, smiling 
&ces pass before me ; familiar names sound in my ears ; 
bright eyes look into mine ; musical voices sing out- 
side my window ; gruff shouts echo as the boys come 
sliding down the hill ; Jerry and his bandsmen march 

along, waking the village with their trumpet notes ; 



thelpoor girl on the bed of reindeer skins whispers 
her ^*Nakom6k;" the crowd on the slope of the 
frozen beach sings me off into the storm ; the voice 
of little Johannes calls above the whining of the 
dogs; and as I bid adieu to my neighbours the 
Eskimos I pass on to my reader the noble old 
greeting that I heard so often — 

" Aksunai." 



Abia, 103, 112 

Accidents, 63, 74, 181, 184, 219, 

Adoptioiu, 80 
Akpik, 71 

Aksanai (meaning of), 26, 61 
Alaska, 22, 23 


Baby, 81 

JBaffin's Land, 23, 211 

Band, 332, 333 

Barrenness of Labrador, 22, 38, 47 

Bears, 20, 43, 200, 206, 231, 266 

Beliefe, heathen, 29, 43 

Bei^amin, 99, 272 

Benjie, 306 

Berries, 38, 286 

Birthdays, 101 

Blowhole, 244 

Bob, 27 

Boots, 32, 68, 69, 109, 140 

Boys, 92, 236, 246 

Bravery, 76, 181, 267> 267, 268, 

276, 277 
Banting, snow, 96, 241 
Button Ldands, 27, 28, 29, 266 

Carpenters, Eskhno, 261, 262, 269, 

Garring, ivory, 106 

Character, Eskimo^ 21, 102, 103, 
166, 161, 186, 189, 202, 221, 230, 
234, 247, 261, 270, 273, 286, 293, 
294, 304, 313, 316, 336, 337 

Charm of Labrador, 46, 48 

Children, 31, 80 fP., 263 

Choice of names, 87 ff. 

Christmas, 63, 331 

Cleanliness, 109, 316 

Oothing, 27, 31, 68, 108 

Cod, 263, 264 

Cold, 56, 69, 60, 120, 132, 162, 186, 

Cooking, 31, 32, 196, 280 

Cousins, 278, 298 

Customs, Eskimo, 70, 71, 76, 78, 
90, 162, 163, 211, 223, 225, 232, 
261, 278, 295, 326, 333 

Cut-throat, 243 


Daniel, 193 £, 229 

Dignity, 68, 102 

Direction, sense of, 187, 189, 236 

Doctors, Eskimo, 289 if. 

Dogs, 46, 62, 94^ 119, 122, 137, 144, 

147 if., 169, 160, 176, 183, 239, 

242, 266, 261, 324, 327 

danger from, 160, 163 

disentangling the, 173 

feeding the, 152, 164 

Dolls, 91 
Drink, 336 


Education, 338 
Embroidery, 106 



Eadannoe, 84, 35, 112, 137, 162, 

ler, W, 277, 299 
Etkimo, meaning of, 281 
EBkimos^ their origin* 22 

appeennee of, 48^ 50, 215 

the, 123, 141, 176, 211, 248, 

266, 279, 337 

Familj likenen, 31, 85 

Fataliim, 294, 297 

FeTer, 129, 138 

Fishing, 73, 112, 113, 247, 253 

Fbwen, 47, 284 

Food, 70, 131, 165, 240^ 279 

Fozea, 226, 227, 229 

Froat-bite, 120, 169, 182 

VnaoBB. meat, 217 

Fnra, 226^ 227, 230 


Gardens, 326, 327 
Good-hnmour, 34, 316 
Government, village, 324 ff. 
Graves, heathen, 23, 43, 99, 136 
Graj's Straits, 26, 27 
Greenland, 22, 23, 246 
Gans, 185, 205, 233 IF. 
Gnsta^ 217, 229 


Happy Hunting Grounds, 43 
Harmony, the, 25, 48, 55, 256, 274, 

319 321 
Harpoon, 24, 96, 205 ft, 219 
Health, 129, 306 
Heathen beliefr, 24, 43 

graves, 23, 43, 99, 136 

Hebron, 49, 106, 114, 119, 124, 129, 

137, 142, 144, 145, 275 
Heredity, 85, 97, 109 

Hospital, Okak, 51, 260, 264, 267, 

Houses, Eskimo, 201, 212, 307 E. 

Humour, sense o^ 64, 155, 196, 288, 

Hunthig, 24^ 28, 72, 204 £ 

loe, 56, 57, 96, 194, 214 

brealdng, 248 

new, 56, 139 

Iglo, 38, 136, 307 
Imitation, 216, 313 
Indians, 110, 111, 281 
Inflnena, 129, 291 
Innnit, 22, 28, 43 
Invitation, Eskimo, 125 
Ishmd, Resolution, 29, 43 
Islands, Button, 27, 28, 29 
Ivorj carving, 105 

Jakko, 219 

Jakobus, 241 

Jerrj, 114, 115,117, 119, 146, 204 ff., 

237, 272, 302, 321, 323» 332 
«ngger, 73 
Johannes, 133, 134, 154 iL, 162, 170, 

182 ff., 218, 237 
John, 143, 144 

little, 66 £ 

Josef, 271, 317, 322 

Joshua, 106, 107 

Juliana, 58, 272, 280, 289 

Julius, 64« 114, 115, 117, 119, 120, 

145, 149, 154 £, 170 ff., 182£,208 

KMi^k (canoeX 24^ 28, 30, 96^ 204, 

218, 246, 324 



Kiglapeit Monntains, 167, 174^ 176, 

177, 184^ 1»7, 198 
KUlinek, 25 £, 117, 256, 288, 331 
Kivgat, the, 334, 335 
Kristian, 153, 170 ff. 

Labrador, 21, 25, 46, 47» 48, 64, 
129, 180, 181, 211, 241, 307, 319, 
322, 326, 330, 332, 333, 337 

Language, Eeldino, 247, 261, 266, 

LaziiiesB, 104 

Literature, 339 

Lizetta, 287, 297 



Maria, 266^ 270, 292 
Martin, Bishop, 115 

223 ff. 

Meat-tixuuDg, 326 

Medidne, 266, 289 

Mele, 227 ff. 

Mice, 47, 241, 285, 327 

Misrionariee, Moravian, 24, 330 ff. 

Missionary at Okak, 51, 52, 54, 58, 

Morals, 334, 337 
Mosquitoes, 258 
Motor boat, 302 ff 
Mugford, Cape, 73^ 276 
Mushrooms, 285 
Music, 65, 318, 382 


Nain, 170, 182, 189, 200, 277 
Names, 87 

Nappartok, 64, 145, 147 
Nennok (white bear), 256, 257 
Newfoundland, 254 
Newspaper, Eskimo, 299, 339 
Nipko, 282, 283, 284 
Northern Star^ the, 302 


Odour, characteristic, 312 

Okak, 44, 47, 49, 79, 99, 106, 108, 

109, 115, 117, 129, 215, 248, 257, 

Old age. 111 

Organist, Eskimo, 210, 332 
Ornaments, 310 
Otok-hunting, 245 

Parkavik, 121, 320 
Partridge, 168, 231, 283 
Panlus, 60, 208, 231, 283, 301 
Pocket, the Eskimo, 109 
Postman, 322 
Proportion, sense o^ 118 
Puppies, 95, 310 

Rain, 34, 156 
Ramah, 49 
Raven, 151 
Rebekah, 267 
Reindeer, 232 ff 
Resolution Island, 29, 43 
Rifle, 205 

Ringsof stones, 30 
Running, 188, 276 


Saeglek, 128 

Samuel, 65, 103, 112 

Sarah, 270, 293, 316 

School, 99, 338 

teachers, 99, 172, 211, 272, 

Scurvy, 284 
Sea, freecing of, 56 
Seal, 35, 207, 209, 213, 223, 228, 

243 ff., 256, 309 



Seal meat, 70, 284 

Sealsy naes of, 243 

Shark, 43, 208, 213 

Sheigo, 127 

Simon, Rat. H., Musionary at 

Okak, 62, 265 
Simplidty, 60, 102, 228, 274, 338 
Sina, 217 €F. 
Singing, 102, 172, 200, 271, 278, 

Skating, 57 
Sledge, making a, 114 £ 

strength of, 61, 222 

Sleeping-hag, 166, 175 
Smoking, 110, 250 
Snow-clearing, 325 
Snow-honaes, 36, 37, 161, 162 ff^ 

175, 307 
Snow-knife, 162 
Snow, Mft (Maiya), 146, 176 
Storm, 74^ 143, 176, 181, 186, 287, 

Snperrtitions, 41 ff., 295 
Surgery, Eskimo, l7l, 276 

Temper, 103, 246 

Tent (tnpek), 29, 30, 31, 32, 83, 

Thrift, 286 
Tok, 61, 113 
Toys, 99 
Training of children, 82, 91, 98. 

Sm School 

Training of dogs, 94, 96 
Travelling box, 135 
Trees, 38, 64, 65, 115, 139 
Trout, 113, 247 
Tnglayi, 39, 40, 41 
Tnktn (reindeerX 231 ff., 230 
Tutjikrlnk, 29 
Tntjat, 27, 28, 29 
Typhus fever, 138 


Uivak, 133, 141 

Vegetobles, 284, 326, 327, 328 
Veronica. 274. 283, 302. 329 


Walrus, 24, 26, 28, 106, 133, 205, 

Washing, 110, 315 
Watar-fetehin^, 61 
Water-finding, 169 
Wedding, 76 
Whip, 94, 148, 150, 160 
Wolf, 22, 167, 231 
Wolverine, 230 
Woman, travelling, 123 
Work, men's, 104^ 105 
women's, 68, 105, 107, 112. 

Workmen, Eskimo, 261, 262 

Printed by BALLAHTm. Habbom 6* Go. 
Bdinboigh 6* London 


" O 

O / 

MAY 1971